Niagara Falls Hyatt casino wins approval

Dec 12, 2000 7:45 AM

NIAGARA FALLS, Ont.—The City of Niagara Falls got an early Christmas present from the Ontario government last Friday with the final approval of a new permanent casino. 

Actually, the final agreement came Thursday, but Bart Maves, who represents the Niagara Falls region in the Ontario Provincial Parliament, called a hasty press conference the next day to present a check for $216,666.67 to Niagara Falls Mayor Wayne Thomson.

That check, the first in monthly payments that will total $56 million over the next 20 years, signaled the government’s go-ahead with the Hyatt Hotel/Casino project. It will cost $600 to $800 million. Construction is scheduled to start next spring.

Provincial officials hope to use some of the rail line for a planned $32 million "people mover" system. Falls Management Co., which operates Casino Niagara and will run the new casino, has already contributed $7 million toward the line.

Chris Hodgson, chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, had been studying the proposal for the past few months after an agreement by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and the City of Niagara Falls.

The $56 million matches the amount given to the City of Windsor by the OLGC for infrastructure improvements necessary to build the new Casino Windsor. The breakdown of payments is similar, with the City of Niagara Falls getting $2.6 million per year for 10 years and $3 million yearly for the next 10. Niagara Falls will receive $3 million a year thereafter.

Mayor Thomson had sought more money from the OLGC than his counterpart in Windsor. He finally succumbed to a "take it or we’ll leave Niagara Falls" ultimatum from the OLGC; Thomson was the victor in recent elections and seemed happy with the first check and the future of his city, which may see as much as $2 billion invested in the next few years.

"This is the single biggest project, not only for Niagara Falls, but for the whole region," Thomson said. "It could mean 50,000 new jobs in the next 10 years."

Maves, a mover and shaker in bringing Casino Niagara to the region, said, "The Province of Ontario has already invested an extraordinary amount of money into Niagara Falls through the Casino/Gateway Project initiative. This agreement assures the development of a permanent casino complex, the largest single investment in the history of the region.

"Not only has Casino Niagara already created more than 6,000 new jobs here; it has also provided the impetus for record investment in the region, attracted millions of new visitors here annually and increased the profitability of the tourism and hospitality sectors."

Maves said the first check "is assurance of the province’s commitment to the Niagara region and the future of Niagara’s tourism and hospitality industries." The agreement will also bring more than $10 million to the city and region through development charges, building permit fees, infrastructure contributions and annual property taxes.

The government also contributed $22 million toward costs of moving the Canadian Pacific rail line that currently runs behind Casino Niagara and through the new hotel/casino’s.