Casino would raise the stakes on Toronto’s waterfront

All bets are off as rumours of a new Toronto casino surfaced across the city’s media landscape last week.

In the midst of a business review set for release this year, reports surfaced that the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation plans to propose the building of a waterfront casino.

No announcement or plan has been put forward, but with the city of Toronto forced to tighten its belt after recent budget cuts, city councillors such as Michael Thompson, chair of the economic development committee, quickly voiced support for the plan, saying a casino would create much-needed jobs.

“People working will make money and they can spend money around the city. It’s a win-win situation,” he said.

In other Ontario cities such as Niagara Falls, casinos have become a vital source of revenue and employment. First opened on 1996 and 2004 respectively, Casino Niagara and Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort, employ 5,500 full-time staff and generate a combined $600 million annually.

This success, however, comes with a price, admitted Niagara Falls mayor Jim Diodati. “Though crime isn’t an issue, many people develop a gambling issue and this can have detrimental effects on the community,” Diodati said.

He also pointed out that casinos would only worsen Toronto’s traffic problem. “Toronto simply lacks the infrastructure to accommodate the casino culture,” he said. “[It] will only bring about vehicular congestion … and cost the city big.”

But University of Toronto urban geography and community development professor Andre Sorensen disagrees. “A 24-hour casino won’t have that much impact of traffic because … it has a very different traffic profile than your average 9 to 5,” Sorensen said.

Traffic would gradually build up over the course of a day and would not see rush hour peaks, such as 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m., he said.

Sorensen also agrees with Thompson that building a Toronto casino would be a wise financial move. “It is actually in the official plan of Toronto to grown by a million people and have a million jobs,” he said.

“Having 24-hour places that provide a whole range of different jobs and services would probably be good for the city.”

Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan recently advocated the building of a casino in the city, but promises to take no action without the city’s blessing.

Of Toronto’s 44 members of city council, only Mayor Rob Ford and councillors Doug Ford, Giorgio Mammoliti and Michael Thompson have voiced support for such a plan.