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New downtown gaming centre under construction at cityplace

The new gaming centre at cityplace will help pay down the mortgage at the MTS Centre.

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The new gaming centre at cityplace will help pay down the mortgage at the MTS Centre. (PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

The province is set to expand its financial support of True North Sports & Entertainment with a gaming centre linked -- literally and physically -- to the MTS Centre.

A new gaming centre, currently under construction on the northwest part of the second floor of cityplace, will be owned by True North, owners of the Winnipeg Jets, and operated by Manitoba Lotteries.

"This gaming centre is a result of the province's promise to provide gaming revenue support to the MTS Centre," said Susan Olynik, vice-president of corporate communications and social responsibility for Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries.

"The revenue that will be earned is to support the MTS Centre mortgage."

The 5,000-square-foot gaming centre is scheduled to include 140 slot machines, two poker tables and four blackjack tables. Once it opens, 50 video lottery terminals currently in operation at the Tavern United pub and restaurant, which is adjacent to the MTS Centre, will be removed. True North receives gaming revenue from these VLTs currently.

A name has not been finalized for the gaming centre, which will be staffed by about 40 employees from Manitoba Lotteries.

"We're working with True North on that. It will be adjacent to a sports bar," Olynik said, noting it will be linked to the MTS Centre by a skywalk over Graham Avenue.

Scott Brown, director of communications for True North, declined to comment Tuesday, saying it will be making a formal announcement "soon," possibly within the next week or so.

"We'll talk about that (the gaming centre) and other parts of it when we're prepared to make our announcement," he said.

Olynik declined to speculate on how much revenue could be generated by the gaming centre.

The Free Press reported nearly a year ago that Winnipeggers funnelled $6.9 million to True North through city and provincial subsidies in 2011. Public support was to eventually climb to nearly $11 million annually.

Winnipeg's 2012 operating budget calls for True North to collect $5.8 million in entertainment-funding taxes, which the company remits to the city and then gets back in the form of a refund. This money is included in the price of Jets tickets and does not affect the city's bottom line, although the city enables the club to levy the 10 per cent charge.

The city does, however, grant True North a full refund on its business taxes, worth $250,000 a year. The city and province also grant the club a 79 per cent discount on property taxes, thanks to a special designation for the MTS Centre as a recreational property instead of a commercial business. This break amounts to $816,140 under the current property assessment, according to the city.

Together, these mechanisms account for $6.9 million this year.

The gaming centre site was previously occupied by a number of smaller retailers, said Brian Smiley, a spokesman for Manitoba Public Insurance, which owns cityplace.

MPI's property management arm, Triovest Realty Advisors, is responsible for securing new tenants.

"It's to the benefit of all Manitobans that (MPI) maximizes (the occupancy) of our retail space in the building. We are entrusted with our customer's money and we're expected to act with due diligence and good business acumen," he said.

Cityplace already has a couple of anchor tenants, Boston Pizza and Rexall Pharma Plus.

"If the speculation is accurate, (the gaming centre) would be a big tenant," he said.


-- with files from Martin Cash



Updated on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 4:34 PM CST:
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