The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation is asking potential developers for their ideas on expanding gambling in the Greater Toronto Area and across the province.
The OLG says it has identified 29 "gaming zones" that cover every area of the province including Sarnia, London, Ottawa, Sudbury and Thunder Bay.
Building a casino in the Greater Toronto Area is key to the OLG's expansion plans, with three gaming zones identified in a request for information from private developers released Thursday.
The OLG has identified three potential zones: a waterfront location in Toronto, a waterfront location in Mississauga and Markham. But, it says, only one gaming facility would be permitted with up to 5,000 slot machines, as well as other table games.
Woodbine Live racetrack would retain its existing 3,000 slots but could potentially add casino tables as well.
Finance Minister Dwight Duncan would not speculate on the possibility of a tussle between Toronto and Mississauga for the rights to a casino, saying it's too early to get into those discussions.
The request for information (RFI) asks for "input from potential providers as [the OLG] expands regulated private-sector gaming in Ontario," says a news release announcing the decision.
"Issuing the RFI is the next step in modernizing our business," OLG president Rod Phillips said in the release. "This is the start of a process to engage private-sector companies which have the expertise of operating world-class gaming facilities."
The OLG says it's seeking "a range of options" for casinos. It could move forward by asking interested developers to present more detailed proposals to build casinos as early as the fall of 2012.
Duncan called Toronto and Ottawa "huge under-serviced markets" and says people should not be "forced to travel 20 or 30 kilometres to access gaming."
The City of Toronto will not make a decision on whether or not to build casinos until October at the earliest. That's when city staff are expected to present a report weighing the pros and cons of a casino in the city.
Council's executive committee will then decide how to proceed, although a full council vote is required before any casino within city limits is approved. Duncan said he didn't think the RFI would speed up the decision process in Toronto.
"My hope is that Toronto will move on making a decision, but they need time to make the determinations they need to make and so no that’s not what this is about," he said.
Duncan admits a Toronto casino would negatively affect existing casinos in Niagara Falls and Rama near Orillia, but says OLG is confident the market can support them all.
He says there is a possibility existing casinos in other areas will be closed or relocated.