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Mayor calls for free alcohol at reeling Ontario casinos

Jan 15, 2015

The mayor of Niagara Falls isn't getting very far with his call to offer free booze to gamblers in order to boost the number of visitors at Ontario casinos. The proposed moved was a bid to stem the continuing loss of gambling revenues.

Niagara Falls, Ontario mayor Jim Diodati makes the comparison to U.S. gambling meccas such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City where free drinks are offered by casinos as a way to entice customers. He has asked the Ontario government about some possible changes to allow the same measure in Ontario.

Credit File photo

Diodati says doing nothing is not a solution.

"There's a cost to standing still, and unfortunately as we stand still, the competition is stepping up," Diodati said.

That competition has been fierce and it is costing the gambling industry in Ontario as it faces declining attendance and profits.

Attendance has dropped from more than 16.5 million people in 2010 to just under 14 million last year. The result: revenues are down by more than $100 million.

Diodati says even the falling Canadian dollar, the Loonie, hasn't been enough to get American gamblers to cross the border. They're staying at home and doing their gambling at casinos in Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Detroit.

The Ontario government does have a stake in the success of the gambling industry. It's worth half a billion dollars in revenues, but that's apparently not enough to allow free booze at casinos.
            
A spokesman for the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation has thrown cold water on the idea, saying there are no plans to introduce free alcohol at casinos.