Does half a billion in revenue justify a Toronto casino?
A Toronto casino could net the city, province, and federal government $392 million in extra tourism revenue if it includes convention space, a hotel, and other recreation facilities, according to a new staff report released today. In total, it estimates an extra 130,000 new visitors would come to Toronto if the venue is built to the city's spec rather than to OLG's plans.
The report, which is intended to inform future council decisions, was released just hours after Rob Ford wrote an open letter to the people of Toronto expressing his support for a major gaming facility in the downtown core. Ford says he expects $150 million in direct annual revenue for the city, calling the chance to develop one of the proposed sites - probably the CNE or Metro Toronto Convention Centre - a "golden opportunity."
City Manager Joe Pennachetti says a casino, if built on the city's terms, would net around $111 to $148 million in hosting fees from OLG. The amount increases based on the overall size of the gaming floor, therefore the city would get the most money if it allowed a larger complex with a greater area dedicated to gambling. There would also be $19 million a year due in property taxes.
The lower amount is connected to the 135,000 square feet of gambling space recommended for the downtown core by city planners. OLG would rather see closed to 175,000 square feet.
In terms of jobs, a casino could generate roughly 6,200 to 7,000 building jobs and 10,070 full-time positions within the finished facility. A report from the Toronto Board of Health in February found that despite new jobs the casino would be unlikely to change the overall unemployment rate and could syphon cash from other businesses and attractions.
This latest staff report, which will be received by the city's executive committee next Monday and later debated at city council, also found 71 per cent of respondents were opposed to a Toronto casino. The areas that expressed the most support were all outside the downtown core.
Are the numbers convincing enough? Is it worth building a casino in Toronto for a chance at $148 million a year and a bump in tourism revenue? How do you think council will vote?
Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.