Toronto has become the latest battleground between Canadian casino proponents and grassroots opponents, as MGM attempts to sway public opinion in favor of its planned casino.
Teaming up with local developer Cadillac Fairview, the casino giant has been promising billions in investments, between 7,000 and 9,000 new jobs and a huge boost to tourism revenues if it is allowed to build its planned Toronto Integrated Resort.
MGM insists that the planned resort at Exhibition Place would have less than 10% dedicated to gambling, with the rest of the complex encompassing congress facilities, restaurants, bars, high class shops and a luxury hotel.
Positioning the establishment as a comprehensive entertainment venue, MGM had this to say: “Through the design, services, and spectacles offered, guests at the Integrated Resort will experience the ‘soul of Toronto’. Our hope is that Torontonians see the exciting possibilities that exist if we revitalize Exhibition Place and optimize its true potential as a year-round resort and entertainment destination.”
Not everyone in Toronto agrees with this assessment. A grassroots organization called No Casino Toronto has been very active, especially online, in protesting against the plans, citing risks to society and calling into question MGM’s calculations.
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) plans to have a new casino in the Greater Toronto Area, but they insist that it must be done with local community consent. Although Canadian gambling laws allow casino gaming, this permissiveness is often not shared by local communities.
Proponents of MGM’s plan, however, point to the fact that Toronto punters can already visit a number of establishments in nearby cities (even in the US), which are built purely for gambling, so a resort-type casino would be a positive development for the Canadian city.
The final word will have to be said by the Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who is expected to decide in April.
Meanwhile in hopes of finding much needed sources of additional revenues, OLG has also been looking at ways to expand the range of available gambling options by introducing online opportunities. Somewhere down the road this could mean more choices for those who wish to play online casinos in Canada.
This would not be without precedent considering that the British Columbia Lottery Corp. has recently launched its site Playnow, thus expanding Internet gambling in Canada.