By Marc Venema
A casino investor has his eyes on the city of Belleville.
Ron Steiner, a partner in the Great Blue Heron Casino, says his company is interested in building a casino across from the Lowes store in Belleville, at Highway 62 and the 401.
Steiner sat in on Monday’s council meeting, where council approved a gaming facility to come to the city after a lengthy public discussion.
“I’m interested if the city is interested,” Steiner said in an interview.
“Because it’s a new location, I think it would be something that would be good for both the community and us as operator.”
Steiner said because of his company’s successful ways at their current location in Port Perry, he’s confident his company would be awarded the right to build a casino should there be more than one investor interested in the area.
“We believe that where we decide to go, we have a good chance of winning.”
The 13.4 acres of land located near the cities north end is owned by Fred Picavet. He said he’s working along side Steiner and Great Blue Heron to try to put a casino on his land. The land is currently held up in zoning but Belleville Mayor Neil Ellis said the property would come up at the next zoning meeting in September.
Council voted 8-1 in favour of hosting a gaming facility in the city of Belleville.
“Now the next process is to wrap everything up and send it to the OLG,” said Ellis.
The only opposing councilor was Jodie Jenkins, who has been publicly battling against a casino since the issue came up earlier this summer.
“I feel that we don’t need to be rushed by the OLG and the province and unfortunately I’m the only person that feels that,” he said. “It’s in the OLG’s hands now.”
Jenkins commended those who spoke against the casino during a two-hour public meeting before the regularly scheduled council meeting.
“I thought it was a great turnout, lots of people here, overflow room was full, council chambers were full, I think the people that spoke did very well, it was pretty close, 14 for, 12 against.”
Alanna Prevost, a former employee of the casino in Gananoque was one of those opposed to a gaming facility. She said she saw the problems of gambling first hand.
“It doesn’t feel very nice,” Prevost said in an interview. “You know they can’t afford it but you still have to offer that bet to them and they are most likely going to lose it. Most of the people that put their bets up on the table are going to lose it and not take the money home with them. There are very few people that won big.”
Sean Donohue, 36, of Belleville was one of those in support of a casino.
“It will not only open doors to new industries, but the biggest industry it will open its doors to is tourism,” Donohue said. “Tourism dollars will not only be spent in this casino but they will be spent in our restaurants, our hotels, our corner stores, gas stations, even the retail outlets will benefit, just imagine the possibilities.”
Belleville Police Chief Cory McMullan told council she had discussions with nine other police chiefs, all in regions with casinos, who said the casinos only generated a few minor calls.
An emotional Susan Hood pled with council to not endorse bringing a casino to the city, in fear that it will cause severe gambling problems.
“I’ve seen too many people lose their livelihoods over stuff like this,” Hood said in an interview.
“Let Quinte West have it,” she said. “If it’s a matter of Quinte West or Belleville having it, the further away from Belleville it is, the better.
“This will change the character of Belleville.”
Jenkins called the decision to vote in favour of a casino “an unfortunate day for our city,” and said it “was a bad move.”
Mayor Ellis said other investors are still interested in the city and although he couldn’t give an exact timeline, did say shovels would probably hit the ground “the day it’s approved,” should a private investor choose Belleville.