SAINT JOHN – The province says it will not “close the door” to a casino in Saint John if the community embraces the idea and it makes economic sense, the finance minister said in a statement released late Wednesday afternoon.
“Government is open to the idea of a casino in Saint John, as we are to other economic opportunities in the region,” said Cathy Rogers. “We have seen success from the Casino New Brunswick, in Moncton, and if there is interest from the Saint John community, a viable economic opportunity and a business case, we would not close the door to a casino opportunity in Saint John.”
At the Tuesday’s night’s Saint John Common Council meeting, Develop Saint John CEO Steven Carson told councillors about the potential casino project as part of the organization’s update on its ongoing activities to help fuel economic growth in the city through residential and commercial property developments.
“Most recently we’ve had the opportunity to discuss a potential casino for our community,” Carson told council in open session. “[It’s] something that we believe, and certainly our partners at Discover Saint John believe could be a really important piece of the puzzle as we move forward trade and convention, and tourism, events and experiences. We’ll be working with the province on [the possibility] in the coming months.”
In an interview with Huddle after Develop Saint John’s presentation to council, Carson said the province first approached them several months ago about the possibility of a new casino opening in the city. The potential operator had reached out to the provincial government first because it would have to grant approval for a casino to operate.
Rogers said it will consider the Saint John casino proposal as part of a larger review of its gaming strategy.
“[This review] will focus on corporate social responsibility and responsible gaming,” said Rogers. “A revitalized approach to provincial gaming will position New Brunswick to capitalize on potential revenue and job growth opportunities (current and future), plus it would position the government and stakeholders to meet the challenges faced by the industry in the coming decade.
“As part of this work, the Department of Finance is having conversations with interested stakeholders on economic opportunities in the province, including a casino opportunity in Saint John.”
In an interview with Huddle after Tuesday’s council session, Saint John mayor Don Darling said a casino could help grow Saint John’s economy and he’s encouraged that Moncton’s experience with its casino has been largely positive.
“We should have a serious discussion about any other mitigating factors like social impacts,” said Darling. “I have not myself seen or heard of any major negative impacts to the City of Moncton. I hear a lot more about the positive impacts. They have excellent concerts there and they do a good job.”