Loto-Quebec & Montreal Canadiens in talks over ‘mini casino’

Loto-Quebec CEO Jean-Francois Bergeron has confirmed reports that the organization is looking to install hundreds of video gambling machines at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

The proposed ‘mini casino’ would see gaming machines, sport betting terminals and poker tables housed inside the 1909 Taverne Moderne restaurant, which adjoins the home of the NHL side Montreal Canadiens.

Loto-Quebec and the Canadiens have been in talks for several months, with Bergeron keen to make a breakthrough as quickly as possible.

“We’re not quite ready [to make an announcement], but yes, we’re in discussions,” he said in a radio interview with Paul Arcand on 98.5 FM yesterday [Feb. 22].

However, the bid is likely to come under heavy scrutiny and, if past events are anything to go by, there could be a number of hurdles to overcome before this can become a reality.

Loto-Quebec is surely prepared for any dissenters this time around, though, having seen attempts to build a $1.1bn casino in Griffintown fail in 2006 after experiencing fierce pushback from community groups and residents.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plant believes the two projects share similarities, but has stopped short of rejecting it outright.

He did, though, stress the importance of receiving approval from Public Health Montreal, who previously expressed strong concerns about the impact of the proposed casino in Griffintown.

Plant said: “I share the opinion of Public Health on this subject, meaning there has to be social acceptability. That’s paramount.”

One of the discussion points has been about the opening hours; whether it will be open seven days a week from noon to 3AM.

Bergeron said the target clientele would be Bell Centre attendees, but added access would not be refused to others who want to go in through its separate street entrance.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Eric Girard has said the Quebec government would want to impose two conditions on the project; to have public health weigh in on it, and to try to ensure that, if it goes forward, the project moves toward an overall reduction in video lottery terminals in the province.

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