Loto-Québec Halts Casino Plans for Montreal

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An initiative to add a new casino in Montreal and create jobs has disintegrated just as it was about to reach the final stage. Loto-Québec, the state-run gaming operator in Canada’s province of Quebec, has taken back its proposal to establish a mini-casino in downtown Montreal.

No Room for New Casino

The casino was proposed near the Bell Centre, a multi-purpose arena and home to the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens. Loto-Québec reversed course on the project following disapproval from the Public Health of Montreal. The announcement was made on Tuesday.

The casino would have offered an array of amenities such as slot machines, sports betting kiosks and poker tables. Notably, even if one were attending an event in the Bell Center, the opportunity to experience the casino would not require leaving the premises and venturing onto the street.

Related: Building Work Starts on Ottawa's Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

During a Radio-Canada interview on Monday, Dr. Mylène Drouin, the director of public health in Montreal, unveiled her disdain for the project. She cautioned that the establishment of a compact casino in the heart of the city would introduce a considerable risk to a vulnerable population in terms of exposure to gambling.

Loto-Québec acknowledged, through its official statement, that it recognized the potential dangers associated with games of chance, particularly video lottery terminals (VLT). It also expressed its disappointment toward the missed potential while acknowledging the public health advice.

The operator viewed the opportunity as a chance to improve Montreal’s gaming environment. It would have limited access to games of chance in “distressed areas” of Montreal by eliminating 600 VLTs from various bars across the city.

Disastrous Consequences for Montreal

Strong opposition to the project was voiced in April by numerous community members and participants of the neighborhood table located in the Sud-Ouest district of Montreal, as well as residents from the Peter-McGill neighborhood within the Ville-Marie district.

They argued that Loto-Québec’s plan wouldn’t change anything, as the Bell Centre is located in one of the same “distressed” areas. They added that the development of a casino in downtown Montreal would have “disastrous consequences” on the local population.

Previously, there was a plan to build the casino at the Peel Basin, an area that has been undergoing revitalization efforts for years. However, when it was proposed in 2006, the plan was rejected for the same reasons.

Loto-Québec hasn’t indicated if it will seek alternative sites. However, it is likely already exploring new locations.