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Mercantis lay their Hamilton casino cards on the table

Posted: February 5, 2013

 

 

Booming rock music. Moody lighting. Women in tight dresses presiding over table games. Promises of 1,200 well-paying jobs and millions more in economic spinoffs.

PJ Mercanti, who promised to make a splash when he and his partners revealed their downtown casino plan, unveiled the “entertainment complex” concept Monday at Sizzle nightclub in Hess Village. About 50 people attended the invitation-only lunch event.

Their proposal includes a casino, hotel and entertainment complex with a rooftop nightclub, restaurants, live music lounge and a comedy club. It would also include a Canadian rock ’n’ roll museum and a Waterfall Capital of the World display.

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But it remains to be seen whether the proposal will be enough to convince councillors to get behind a downtown casino. None attended Monday’s event, while several said afterward they still prefer a gaming facility in Flamborough.

“I’m hoping and praying that Flamboro Downs will continue to exist for many, many years to come,” said Councillor Tom Jackson.

“I just wish their proposal could find a Flamborough site because it is welcomed there — unlike downtown Hamilton,” said Councillor Sam Merulla.

“I’m opposed to a casino downtown. The priority location is Flamborough,” said Councillor Judi Partridge.

Monday’s announcement was hosted by RockHammer, a corporation directed by Mercanti, along with his father, Peter, and McMaster University professor Nick Bontis. The Labourers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) is partnering with the RockHammer team, along with the corporation behind the Hard Rock Café franchise.

RockHammer says its $200-million “entertainment complex” will create at least 1,200 living-wage jobs and become one of the largest private-sector employers in Hamilton.

“We may have built this city on steel, but we will rebuild this city on rock ’n’ roll,” PJ Mercanti told the crowd.

Highlights of the proposal include:

•  A Hard Rock casino that takes up 15 to 20 per cent of the total square footage of the complex

•  1,200 slot machines and table games

•  A 280-room hotel, several restaurants, a comedy club, sports bar, several luxury retail outlets and a “rooftop nightlife experience”

•  A Canadian rock music museum and live performances by Hamilton bands five nights a week

•  1,200 full-time, living-wage jobs, plus additional job opportunities in retail

•  A gambling addiction program offered in partnership with Mission Services

RockHammer is reviewing seven potential sites with a focus on the downtown. The exact square footage will depend on location.

However, not even councillors will have the final say over the ultimate location and operator of Hamilton’s casino. If council approves a new casino, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation will be in charge of reviewing and choosing bids from private casino operators based on council’s requirements.

There are rumours of at least two other potential operators interested in a Hamilton casino, although RockHammer is so far the only proponent to publicly reveal its plans.

Monday’s event included several jabs at the vocal anti-casino camp, especially those who use Twitter. Bontis made repeated references to the Twitterverse during his speech, stating the proposal was “not the people who yip, but the people who act.” Later, before stating that the average casino patron has an income of $90,000, Bontis said “this is a fact, not a tweet.”

At an editorial board meeting Monday morning at The Spectator, Peter Mercanti also said he doesn’t understand the opposition to a downtown casino.

“Who are these people? What is their background? What have they done?” he said. “They get almost all the same weight as the people who really count. It shocks me.”

By people who “count,” Mercanti says he was referring to the many downtown residents and businesspeople he’s spoken to who support a casino.

A microcosm of heated debate played out on social media throughout the day. Bontis’s and Peter Mercanti’s comments, as well as photos depicting the scantily clad women at the event, prompted criticism.

PJ Mercanti later shared positive comments he’d received from residents, to combat the negative reaction.

RockHammer will attend Wednesday’s general issues committee meeting to discuss its proposal. Councillors have until the end of February to make a decision.

 

Original Article found here http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/881146–mercantis-lay-their-hamilton-casino-cards-on-the-table