As casinos prepare to reopen in Toronto, here in London the future of gaming remains murky.
The construction site remains idle at 3334 Wonderland Road South, where Gateway Casinos and Entertainment has planned to build a $55 million casino and restaurant complex.
In a statement Gateway tells CTV News:
"Under present circumstances, it is difficult to forecast when construction can resume on Wonderland Rd. until we know whether the social distancing, occupancy limits and other health and safety protocols currently required are a temporary thing or a permanent fixture of our operations for the next few years."
"Are we as a city concerned? Look, it has definitely become a significant revenue generator," says Mayor Ed Holder.
A new casino would mean about 700 additional jobs and higher payments to city hall from revenue sharing.
When the rezoning of 3334 Wonderland Rd. was approved last summer, representatives of Gateway Casinos expressed optimism that the new casino could open by summer 2021.
But the COVID-19 pandemic there’s uncertainty about when the project will actually break ground.
Gateway says its first priority is to reopen existing locations.
In the Western Fair District the operator has 760 slots and 11 table games.
By the end of August, the temporary closure had already cost city hall $2.5 million.
"They (Gateway) need to get their house in order in ways that are going to be profitable to them," explains Holder. "Then I think you’ll see some development in terms of construction on Wonderland Road."
Casinos were granted permission to reopen when the province entered Stage 3 earlier this summer, but a hard cap of 50 customers has prevented province-wide reopening.
Some casinos in Toronto have announced an intent to reopen on September 28.
Holder says he and other mayors have spoken about the impact on municipalities.
"We all have a variety of challenges, probably bigger for cities like London, (with) the bigger the revenues."
Gateway Casinos’ gaming floors in Chatham, Point Edward, Hanover, and other southwestern Ontario communities also remain closed.