Town hall focuses on controversial Toronto casino plans

Former Ontario minister and 2010 mayoral candidate George Smitherman hosted a final town hall on Tuesday, focusing on the proposal to build a controversial casino.

Former Ontario minister George Smitherman hosts town hall on controversial casino

Representatives of MGM appear at a public meeting to discuss their plans for a casino. 2:09

Former Ontario minister and 2010 mayoral candidate George Smitherman hosted a final town hall Tuesday on a proposal to build a controversial casino -- during which Torontonians had a direct exchange with a MGM Resorts executive.

MGM has proposed building a casino and resort at Exhibition Place, promising revenue and jobs for the city.

The proposal has met strong opposition. Three former Toronto mayors wrote a joint letter to Mayor Rob Ford arguing that the casino is not in the city’s best interest and claimed that it would bring its share of costs.

Revival, a bar in the heart of Little Italy hosted the last of a series of town halls, included a panel of those for and against the casino.

City councillor Mike Layton and Robert Sysak, of the West Queen West BIA, were opposed to the proposal. Alan Feldman, of MGM Resorts and Mike Yorke, of Carpenters Local 27 were for the idea of the mega casino and resort.

Revival bar in Little Italy hosts the casino town hall meeting. (Marivel Taruc/CBC)

Dr. Arlene King, Toronto’s Chief Medical officer of Health, has raised concerns that the casino could double the rates of problem gambling.

"That's a major concern because that not only affects families but there are deep social costs, financial and otherwise, that Torontonians are going to have to deal with," said Layton.

Those that are pro-casino see financial and economic benefits in proposal.

"It's 10,000 jobs going onwards and I would say why would we turn our backs on that, that's a great thing for the city of Toronto?" said Yorke.

Many said that unionized jobs at the casino could provide better prospects for many who work in the service industry.

Defending their choice of locations and intentions, Feldman stressed that MGM wants to build more than just a casino at the CNE site. They proposed to have a hotel, restaurants and retail stores.

"Some are going to agree and some are going to disagree like in any other debate," said Feldman.

"There is never 100 per cent unanimity of opinion, but at least we’ve got to try and explain it and not just allow folks to believe that all we do are casinos and that the one things we’d be interested in doing is a casino."

City council is set to vote on the matter in April.

With files from Marivel Taruc