toronto casino

Toronto one step closer to hosting a casino

A casino, convention centre, and entertainment resort in downtown Toronto is a step closer to reality now that Rob Ford's hand-picked executive committee has voted 9-4 in favour of sending the discussion on to city council next month. The vote wasn't unanimous: councillors Paul Ainslie, Peter Milczyn, Jaye Robinson, and Denzil Minnan-Wong went against Rob Ford's wishes.

Had a majority of the 13-member group voted "no," the casino would have effectively been killed off before it could be debated by a full group of councillors.

While the news isn't entirely surprising, a clutch of member motions altered several aspects of the conversation. Coun. Paula Fletcher asked that the Port Lands be officially dropped from the list of possible locations but the committee decided to keep the waterfront property on the short list. A motion to dedicate all revenue from the casino to transit expansion passed 11-2.

Despite today's decision, the latest projections seem to give the anti-casino councillors a small majority ahead of the deciding council vote.

More than 200 people, including several industry groups, turned out to speak before the executive committee yesterday. Police chief Bill Blair also spoke, saying he had no concerns about an increase in crime connected to a Toronto gaming development.

Toronto's Board of Health has already spoken out against improving access to gambling in the city, saying 1.2 to 3.4% of people in Ontario are addicted to some form of chance-based game. "I just don't buy these arguments - they don't exist," claimed Rob Ford. "They might as well ban food for fat guys like me ... you have to have self control."

The cabinet-like committee was discussing an in-depth report by city manager Joe Pennachetti that said increasing convention space was key to any development, be it at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the CNE, or Woodbine. Extra space for visiting trade shows and other events could net the city significant amounts of extra cash, greatly increasing the city's income from a resort.

The report said the city should expect between $111 to $148 million a year in hosting fees from OLG if it agreed to build a resort. The provincial lottery and gaming provider, however, says that figure will be between $50 million and $100 million and has already said it's not willing to give Toronto a special cut of the profits.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: ragingwire/Creative Commons.

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