On Tuesday, September 19, 2023, Loto-Québec announced that it will not be pursuing its plans to launch a mini-casino in near proximity to the Bell Centre in downtown Montreal. The Crown corporation chose to abandon the project after it faced opposition from Montreal Public Health which recently published a 40-page report to express its discontent with the gaming hall.
The project was first revealed earlier this year and the plan was to install approximately 300 video lottery terminals in the currently vacant Taverne 1909 restaurant, next to the Bell Centre. The objective was to capture some of the fans who visit the home of the Montreal Canadiens. However, experts raised concerns about a potential negative impact on the local population.
Plans Now Nulled
In its press, the Crown agency stated that the conditions are not favourable to its success as recently the project was opposed by the Montreal Public Health (DRSP), which issued a 40-page report on the project detailing the potential harms. The gambling corporation shared that it respects the opinion of the public health organization, but still deems the project a missed opportunity.
It claims that it has suggested a responsible project to reduce their accessibility and remove 600 VLTs in bars in disadvantaged areas on the island of Montréal. The Crown also understands why DRSP sees some of the aspects of the gaming hall's location as hazardous. Since it would have been located next to the Bell Centre and it would have tied to Groupe CH.
In its report, the Montreal Public Health Department also recommended that the gambling regulator continue the reduction in the number of sites for VLTs by ceasing to award permits for the operation and running of this kind of machine. DRSP also urged for the development of an independent agency to oversee gambling in Quebec, in relation to the current gambling situation.
Jean-François Bergeron, President and CEO of Loto-Québec commented that reassessing the Crown's land-based model would allow it to better meet the current challenges and needs. He claimed that not doing anything does not provide a solution. Mr. Bergeron also argued that reducing supply without providing new options to meet consumers' demand.
DRSP is Not the Only Opposition to the Project
A while back several Montreal communities expressed their discontent with the project which would have launched a gaming hall at Taverne 1909. Groups from the Sud-Ouest borough and Peter-McGill district of the Ville-Marie borough stated that the Crown corporation would increase its revenues on the backs of those who are at risk which was unacceptable.
Serge Sasseville, independent city councillor for the Ville-Marie borough's Peter-McGill district commented said the casino would be harmful to vulnerable people in the area. He explained the location is in the city's “red zone” which outlines areas with too many VLTs in bars while also noting neighbourhood already deals with issues of crimes, street gangs, and drug trafficking.
Source: “Loto-Quebec withdraws plan to open hundreds of video gaming machines near Bell Centre” CTV News Montreal, September 20, 2023