Red Deer’s Jackpot Casino is outgrowing its downtown space and wants to relocate to the Cambridge Hotel.
Both the casino and the hotel are owned by the O’Chiese Band. “It makes sense to create a casino resort,” said the casino’s CEO, Georges Yammine on Thursday.
He noted the O’Chiese Gaming Limited Partnership has been assessing the feasibility of moving since they bought the hotel in 2017.
Jackpot Casino, now located on Ross Street and 47th Avenue, has space constraints and a need for more parking spaces. Yammine said many older clients would like to be able to park closer to the building.
The Cambridge Hotel has additional room and ample parking and also offers more amenities, such as entertainment rooms.
Yammine said the casino’s owners feel there’s great potential at the hotel location to attract more business, including tourists and those attending business conferences.
He believes the benefits would spill over into the community with $11 million in new construction, more money raised for local charities, more concerts, job creation and taxation.
Jackpot Casino owners are expected to apply to the City of Red Deer to relocate their downtown gambling in the coming weeks.
An opponent to the casino’s move has already been running advertisements against it, citing various concerns about safety and reduced property values.
There are already opportunities for community members to comment on the proposed relocation to the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission. Anyone with concerns can post them on the AGLC website until May 2.
A final decision by the AGLC on the casino’s move is expected later in 2022.
Erin Stuart, inspections and licensing manager for the City of Red Deer, said once the casino’s development permit application is received, a review process will be triggered.
Landowners within 100 metres of the Cambridge Hotel will be informed of the proposal and invited to submit comments on it.
Depending on public reaction and whether easements are being proposed, the city will decide whether the application can be processed by a development officer or will have to go to the Municipal Planning Commission for consideration.
A casino is listed as a discretionary use on the hotel property’s zoning rules. Stuart said this means the city could approve the development, add conditions on its approval, or refuse it based on planning rationale.
If the application is approved, an appeal period will follow with a process for residents to again raise concerns.
The city’s land and economic development manager, John Sennema, said casinos tend to be polarizing, with some people against them and others considering them a big economic driver.
“I think they are neither an economic savior nor a destroyer,” he said, but just one aspect of the city’s economic mix.
Sennema noted Jackpot Casino attracts clients who come to the establishment specifically to gamble and do not spend time browsing in neighbouring shops or eating at downtown restaurants, so the prospective loss for the downtown “is not that big a deal.”