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Ottawa’s Downtown Casino: Jackpot or Bust?

Ottawa’s Downtown Casino: Jackpot or Bust?


By Adam Slight

These days, gossip about a downtown Ottawa casino is spinning faster than a roulette table. There are rumours regarding potential locations that range from The Byward Market, The Rideau Centre, The Old Jail on Nicolas St., Old Ottawa South, and even Kanata. The very mention of a casino in Downtown seems to put Ottawa residents on edge—and everyone seems to have their own 2 cents to contribute to the dialogue.

The resistance to an Ottawa Casino stems from at least two things that I can see: There is a fear that a casino will promote unhealthy addictive behaviour. There is also an attitude that Ottawa could spend its resources and real estate on more important amenities.

As for my own 2 cents, I do know one thing: If a good casino were to be built in downtown Ottawa, Ottawa Rickshaws and other entertainment providers downtown would strike jackpot. Many praise the Byward Market for pursuing a rustic, farmer’s market image—but I doubt these people realize that there has been a significant drop in business in the Market over the past several years. A casino would undoubtedly cure this.

Notice how I say a “good” casino? If Ottawa does go ahead with this, it damn well better make sure that this casino doesn’t suck! No riding on the fence trying to keep everyone happy. This casino should be exciting, promote local culture, hire local performers and restauranteurs, and act as an entertainment hub–not a place where people go to just lose money and gamble.

But I do see the other side of the coin. I can see why people who view Ottawa as a city of culture and history more than as a city of entertainment would oppose the tacky glitz that is often associated with Casinos.

But here is a simple fact that we should all remember before forming a strong opinion about this matter: this is a rumour! There are no concrete facts surrounding the issue. Mayor Jim Watson doesn’t even have anything to say on the matter. I think any strong of support or opposition of a downtown casino is misplaced without actually seeing a proposed plan.

Just hold your horses.


We’ve been invited to speak with city council about this issue. Before doing so, however, we decided to ask Ottawa what they think about a casino in their city.

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