The City of Niagara Falls has received CAD 186.5 million ($139.7 million) in casino-hosting revenue during the nine years that have passed since it renegotiated its agreement with Ontario Lottery and Gaming. The municipality has allocated CAD 177.6 million ($133 million) towards five council-adopted priority areas, including debt avoidance/capital investment.
For instance, CAD 403,000 ($301.953) was allocated between 2013 and 2014 towards the Niagara Falls Lions Legacy Pathways section of Millennium Recreational Trail, CAD 221,155 ($16.571) towards replacing a street sweeper, and CAD 80,000 ($59.945) dedicated to boat-ramp improvements in Chippawa.
Other areas to benefit from casino-hosting funding between April 1, 20212 to September 30, 2022, which the city receives on a quarterly basis based on a percentage of gaming, include property tax relief, policing around the casino district, economic-development initiatives and support for the new future hospital, as reported by Niagara Falls Review.
As of September 30, there was an uncommitted balance of CAD 8.9 million ($6.6 million) available to be allocated in the 2023 capital budget. Approximately CAD 6 million ($4.4 million) is proposed to be committed through the budget, which will be discussed during Tuesday’s city council meeting.
Fallsview Casino Resort
The renegotiated agreement in 2013 increased the city’s hosting fees from the previous deal, which saw the municipality receive a fixed annual rate of CAD 3 million ($2.2 million) for hosting Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara.
Between 2014 and 2019, the municipality received more than $20 million each year. Its best year came in 2017 when Niagara Falls raked in CAD 26.3 million ($19.7 million).
Revenue was significantly reduced in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the casinos remain closed during the height of restrictions. Funding has bounced back slightly this year, with the city getting CAD 14.5 million ($10.7 million), with one more quarter of revenue to come.
A report was presented during Thursday’s city council meeting, which says that while staff has updated local politicians regularly about the commitments of casino-hosting funds since the inception of the agreement, “there still seems to be confusion among the public as to the use of the OLG funds.”
“The purpose of this report is to provide an annual summary of the OLG commitments to date stemming from the new funding agreement including detailed attachments outlining every project/purpose OLG funding was used or committed to,” the report reads, retrieved by Niagara Falls Review.
The report argues none of the casino-hosting revenue should be used to subsidize the tax levy but rather should be kept for use on capital projects or other special initiatives/projects. Concerns were expressed about the reliance on an unreliable source of revenue, which was magnified during the pandemic.