Early council reaction to Mayor Rob Ford’s casino letter

One week before crucial consultation at city hall

Rob Ford has officially reinforced his support of the proposed Toronto casino.

Mayor Ford released a letter Monday morning around the same time as the City Manager, Joe Pennachetti, released his report on a plan to allow the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation to bring a casino to the city.

Ford has always been a tentative supporter of the plan, but in his public letter he re-affirms this, approving the idea.

“I’ve always said I would support a casino if it would produce thousands of good quality jobs and generate millions of dollars for important city services” wrote Ford. “After reviewing all available information, consulting with my council colleagues and members of the public, I am confident Toronto faces a golden opportunity.”

The letter has prompted some councillors to criticize the mayor, saying that he is ignoring key factors.

“He’s making a lot of assumptions about what the casino could bring to the city, but he doesn’t pay any attention to what it will cost the city,” said Trinity-Spadina Ward 19 councillor Mike Layton.

Pennachetti’s plan suggests that the city could make around $150 million dollars a year in hosting fees if Toronto works out a special deal with OLG. But Layton is quick to point out that this deal is highly unlikely. Plus, the mayor’s math could be off.

“The OLG never said that we’d get 50 per cent of the revenue, and Toronto will not get a special deal, the premier has said on several occasions Toronto will get closer to 5 per cent which is much closer to $20 million than it is $150. So he’s just wrong in that assumption,” Layton said.

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday understands the rationale behind the opposition, but raises one key problem with rejecting the casino.

“One big negative that’s going to be hard to get around is that if we don’t do it, somebody on our border will do it, and we would be stuck with the negatives, and absolutely no positives, there’s no return at all,” said Holyday in a telephone interview.

Holyday also insists that there would be no increase in crime, based on other information from other Canadian gambling sites, a point that Layton contested.

Councillor Holyday warns people to wait until all of the information is on the table, literally.

“People that are saying no, or yes for that matter, would be well advised to wait to see all the facts, and I don’t think we’re going to see all the facts and know all the benefits, and know for certain what they are, until we have legitimate, binding proposals.”