WATCH: Tentative deal reached to keep slots, horse racing in Ajax
Gambling and quarter horse racing will continue in Ajax despite a colossal gaming and entertainment complex planned a 10 minute drive away in Pickering.
Ontario Environment Minister and Ajax MPP Rod Phillips announced Tuesday that an agreement in principle has been reached to allow gambling in the neighbouring cities at the same time.
Casino Ajax was told its days would soon be numbered in April after Great Canadian Gaming and Ontario Lottery and Gaming announced their intention to push ahead with the Durham Live development at Church St and Bayly St in Pickering. The expected closure of Casino Ajax also put the future of quarter horse racing at the adjoining Ajax Downs on the line.
The new tentative agreement will keep Casino Ajax's 800 slot machines going until the Pickering casino is open. After that, the number of slot machines in Ajax will not be permitted to fall below 500. Whether to reduce the number of slots, when and how quickly will be up to Great Canadian Gaming and OLG.
The deal is good until 2026 with two extension terms that could tack on an additional 12 years.
Ajax mayor Steve Parish, who lobbied the former Liberal government and the new Progressive Conservative one to save the city's casino looked as though a weight had been lifted off his shoulders as the announcement was made.
He thanked the premier, finance minister and Phillips in particular for their open-mindedness.
"Politicians make promises and sometimes they don't keep them and we criticize them for that, properly. But when they keep their promises, you've got so say well done, and thank you."
The Durham Live complex could be open by the end of 2019. Beyond a casino, plans include 600 hotel rooms, an outdoor amphitheatre, a performance hall, water park, movie cinema, restaurants, 150,000 sq ft of shopping and convention space.
Phillips suggests the gambling facilities in Ajax and Pickering will be allowed to co-exist because they may each draw a different kind of clientele.
Parish stressed the important role Casino Ajax has played since it opened in 2006, employing nearly 2,000 people, hosting community celebrations and generating more than $80 million for Ajax for infrastructure projects.
Bob Broadstock, President of the Quarter Racing Owners of Ontario says the tentative deal also comes as a relief to those who make their living in the racing industry.
"The 300 families that live and work here in the region of Durham will sleep a lot better tonight and throughout this year and for many years to come," Broadstock said.