Torontonians speak out on proposed casino

Bill Rutsey, president of the Canadian Gaming Association, struck a nerve during the public consultation meeting on casinos on Wednesday night.

Close to 40 speakers addressed the Toronto and East York Community Council meeting dealing with plans to build and run a casino in the downtown core. Some speakers urged councillors to create zoning restrictions to prevent the development of a “destination-resort” style mega casino on Toronto’s waterfront. However, Rutsey emphasized what he saw as the upside to such a development.

“What’s really under consideration now, is whether or not to work together to realize a game changing, iconic entertainment development that will create 6,000 construction jobs and support up to 12,000 good paying permanent jobs,” he said.

But Rutsey seemed unable to back up his claims.

Toronto city councilors, such as Coun. Adam Vaughan (Ward 20,) pressed the pro-gambling lobbyist.

“Do you have the economic impact studies on the economic assumptions that underpin those projections?” Vaughan asked Rutsey.

He did not.

Coun. Gord Perks (Ward 14) also confronted Rutsey during the town hall style meeting.

“I hope that the next time you come to make a deputation and you encourage us to look at facts, or the next time you write my office and encourage me to look at facts, you present facts,” Perks said.

Also attending the meeting, founder of No Casino Toronto, Maureen Lynett, expressed her opposition to the proposal.

“Study after study have shown that a mega casino will cannibalize the local tourist, entertainment and restaurant businesses,” she said. “A mega casino will be detrimental to Toronto and it should not receive the support of council.

The casino development proposal is part of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s modernization plan. Launched last March, the modernization program calls for expanded “private sector delivery of lottery and gaming.”

The proposal scares OLG employee Theo Lagakos.

“The plan will cannibalize other gaming jobs,” he said. “It will choke the supply of gaming in rural communities to artificially inflate demand for a casino in Toronto.”

Bill Rutsey disagreed, calling the project a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” He also outlined the potential creation of 12,000 new permanent jobs.

“When you look at the facts, you see that the fears that have been raised simply do not come to pass,” Rutsey said. “We are suggesting that people look past the myths and misperceptions that are put forth by people who are opposed to gaming for moral and other reasons.”

Rutsey called gambling the “most popular form of entertainment in this country.”

Most of the downtown core already has zoning restrictions against gaming establishments. The notable exception is the Canadian National Exhibition grounds.

The Executive committee will review a staff report on the viability of a casino on Nov. 5.