Downtown councillors eye Slots to replace lost bingo centre revenues

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Hamilton councillor Sam Merulla is eyeing the slot revenue from Flamboro Downs to reimburse the revenue charities have lost due to the closure of Hamilton bingo centres. But it's an idea Flamborough's two councillors have rejected.

"It's not going to get my support," said Ward 15's Margaret McCarthy.

Merulla has sponsored a motion requesting the provincial government replace revenues local charities have lost with money from Ontario casinos. He blames casinos for forcing area bingo halls to close their doors. The last bingo to halt operations was at Centre Mall on Barton Street in Merulla's ward. More than 40 community organizations were affected. A few charity groups have found a spot at one of the city's last bingo halls on the mountain.

Jo-Anne Priel, general manager of Social and Public Health, said there are many reasons bingo halls are closing, including the smoking bylaw and donor fatigue following the massive outpouring of relief for victims of the tsumani and Hurricane Katrina.

Since the slots opened at Flamboro Downs in 2000, Hamilton has received about $21 million. The money has been used to reduce taxes to Flamborough residents due to amalgamation and to pay down the Borer's Creek debt created prior to amalgamation.

The Borer's Creek debt is expected to be paid off in 2006, said Joe Rinaldo, general manager of corporate finance for the city.

Once the debt is paid off, the city has an opportunity, said Merulla, to redirect the revenue to other projects in Hamilton. "I don't want to open up a can of worms," said Rinaldo. "We should research the issue and collectively work together on this."

McCarthy and Ward 14's Dave Braden, at the recent Committee to Free Flamborough meeting in Millgrove, both expressed frustration at working within the structure of the new city. They also noted that their constituents remain angry at Hamilton, which they believe they are propping up with ever-rising tax dollars and receiving nothing in return.

McCarthy told the estimated 230 people at the meeting that Hamilton councillors were itching to grab the former municipality's slot revenues to pay off the city's expenses. Braden said if downtown councillors were truly interested in getting new revenue sources, they should look at locating a casino operation in downtown Hamilton, an idea that met with derision from colleagues.

Councillors agreed to ask Rinaldo study the issue to see what can be done to help the city's charities. It's expected the document will be ready in the next week.

Meanwhile, councillors continued to tighten the city's purse strings when it comes to community groups asking for money.

Politicians rejected a funding request from Arts Hamilton for about $44,500, which would be used to hire an additional staff member.

Hamilton councillor Brian McHattie said the community group has already cut programs and has had its grant reduced from the Ontario Arts Council from $32,500 to $18,000. Arts Hamilton was one of the community groups that lost revenue when the Centre Mall bingo centre closed.

The city already provides Arts Hamilton with a yearly grant of $25,000.

"I've seen councillors approve of one-off grants to other groups," said McHattie.

But other councillors rejected the request for additional funding, citing Hamilton's already precarious budget situation.

"We should be cutting, not adding to the budget," said McCarthy. "Once you start (making exceptions), where do you stop?"

Hamilton politicians are facing a $50-million deficit in the city's 2006 budget, which could mean an average tax increase of about 10 per cent if it is not addressed.

Council will wait for Rinaldo's report before deciding to provide any money to community groups.

Still, councillors did provide Arts Hamilton with $10,000.

"It will keep the doors open and fulfill their mandate," said McHattie.

Downtown councillors eye Slots to replace lost bingo centre revenues

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Hamilton councillor Sam Merulla is eyeing the slot revenue from Flamboro Downs to reimburse the revenue charities have lost due to the closure of Hamilton bingo centres. But it's an idea Flamborough's two councillors have rejected.

"It's not going to get my support," said Ward 15's Margaret McCarthy.

Merulla has sponsored a motion requesting the provincial government replace revenues local charities have lost with money from Ontario casinos. He blames casinos for forcing area bingo halls to close their doors. The last bingo to halt operations was at Centre Mall on Barton Street in Merulla's ward. More than 40 community organizations were affected. A few charity groups have found a spot at one of the city's last bingo halls on the mountain.

Jo-Anne Priel, general manager of Social and Public Health, said there are many reasons bingo halls are closing, including the smoking bylaw and donor fatigue following the massive outpouring of relief for victims of the tsumani and Hurricane Katrina.

Since the slots opened at Flamboro Downs in 2000, Hamilton has received about $21 million. The money has been used to reduce taxes to Flamborough residents due to amalgamation and to pay down the Borer's Creek debt created prior to amalgamation.

The Borer's Creek debt is expected to be paid off in 2006, said Joe Rinaldo, general manager of corporate finance for the city.

Once the debt is paid off, the city has an opportunity, said Merulla, to redirect the revenue to other projects in Hamilton. "I don't want to open up a can of worms," said Rinaldo. "We should research the issue and collectively work together on this."

McCarthy and Ward 14's Dave Braden, at the recent Committee to Free Flamborough meeting in Millgrove, both expressed frustration at working within the structure of the new city. They also noted that their constituents remain angry at Hamilton, which they believe they are propping up with ever-rising tax dollars and receiving nothing in return.

McCarthy told the estimated 230 people at the meeting that Hamilton councillors were itching to grab the former municipality's slot revenues to pay off the city's expenses. Braden said if downtown councillors were truly interested in getting new revenue sources, they should look at locating a casino operation in downtown Hamilton, an idea that met with derision from colleagues.

Councillors agreed to ask Rinaldo study the issue to see what can be done to help the city's charities. It's expected the document will be ready in the next week.

Meanwhile, councillors continued to tighten the city's purse strings when it comes to community groups asking for money.

Politicians rejected a funding request from Arts Hamilton for about $44,500, which would be used to hire an additional staff member.

Hamilton councillor Brian McHattie said the community group has already cut programs and has had its grant reduced from the Ontario Arts Council from $32,500 to $18,000. Arts Hamilton was one of the community groups that lost revenue when the Centre Mall bingo centre closed.

The city already provides Arts Hamilton with a yearly grant of $25,000.

"I've seen councillors approve of one-off grants to other groups," said McHattie.

But other councillors rejected the request for additional funding, citing Hamilton's already precarious budget situation.

"We should be cutting, not adding to the budget," said McCarthy. "Once you start (making exceptions), where do you stop?"

Hamilton politicians are facing a $50-million deficit in the city's 2006 budget, which could mean an average tax increase of about 10 per cent if it is not addressed.

Council will wait for Rinaldo's report before deciding to provide any money to community groups.

Still, councillors did provide Arts Hamilton with $10,000.

"It will keep the doors open and fulfill their mandate," said McHattie.

Downtown councillors eye Slots to replace lost bingo centre revenues

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Hamilton councillor Sam Merulla is eyeing the slot revenue from Flamboro Downs to reimburse the revenue charities have lost due to the closure of Hamilton bingo centres. But it's an idea Flamborough's two councillors have rejected.

"It's not going to get my support," said Ward 15's Margaret McCarthy.

Merulla has sponsored a motion requesting the provincial government replace revenues local charities have lost with money from Ontario casinos. He blames casinos for forcing area bingo halls to close their doors. The last bingo to halt operations was at Centre Mall on Barton Street in Merulla's ward. More than 40 community organizations were affected. A few charity groups have found a spot at one of the city's last bingo halls on the mountain.

Jo-Anne Priel, general manager of Social and Public Health, said there are many reasons bingo halls are closing, including the smoking bylaw and donor fatigue following the massive outpouring of relief for victims of the tsumani and Hurricane Katrina.

Since the slots opened at Flamboro Downs in 2000, Hamilton has received about $21 million. The money has been used to reduce taxes to Flamborough residents due to amalgamation and to pay down the Borer's Creek debt created prior to amalgamation.

The Borer's Creek debt is expected to be paid off in 2006, said Joe Rinaldo, general manager of corporate finance for the city.

Once the debt is paid off, the city has an opportunity, said Merulla, to redirect the revenue to other projects in Hamilton. "I don't want to open up a can of worms," said Rinaldo. "We should research the issue and collectively work together on this."

McCarthy and Ward 14's Dave Braden, at the recent Committee to Free Flamborough meeting in Millgrove, both expressed frustration at working within the structure of the new city. They also noted that their constituents remain angry at Hamilton, which they believe they are propping up with ever-rising tax dollars and receiving nothing in return.

McCarthy told the estimated 230 people at the meeting that Hamilton councillors were itching to grab the former municipality's slot revenues to pay off the city's expenses. Braden said if downtown councillors were truly interested in getting new revenue sources, they should look at locating a casino operation in downtown Hamilton, an idea that met with derision from colleagues.

Councillors agreed to ask Rinaldo study the issue to see what can be done to help the city's charities. It's expected the document will be ready in the next week.

Meanwhile, councillors continued to tighten the city's purse strings when it comes to community groups asking for money.

Politicians rejected a funding request from Arts Hamilton for about $44,500, which would be used to hire an additional staff member.

Hamilton councillor Brian McHattie said the community group has already cut programs and has had its grant reduced from the Ontario Arts Council from $32,500 to $18,000. Arts Hamilton was one of the community groups that lost revenue when the Centre Mall bingo centre closed.

The city already provides Arts Hamilton with a yearly grant of $25,000.

"I've seen councillors approve of one-off grants to other groups," said McHattie.

But other councillors rejected the request for additional funding, citing Hamilton's already precarious budget situation.

"We should be cutting, not adding to the budget," said McCarthy. "Once you start (making exceptions), where do you stop?"

Hamilton politicians are facing a $50-million deficit in the city's 2006 budget, which could mean an average tax increase of about 10 per cent if it is not addressed.

Council will wait for Rinaldo's report before deciding to provide any money to community groups.

Still, councillors did provide Arts Hamilton with $10,000.

"It will keep the doors open and fulfill their mandate," said McHattie.