No casino at Ontario Place? OLG chair unfazed

The chair of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation says he doesn't consider the province's declaration that Ontario Place is off-limits for a potential Toronto casino a setback.
OLG Chairman Paul Godfrey says more detailed plans for the proposed complex are currently being drawn up. (Adrien Veczan/Canadian Press)

The chair of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation says he doesn't consider the province's decision to declare Ontario Place off-limits for a massive casino and entertainment complex a setback.

Paul Godfrey told CBC's Metro Morning on Monday he wasn't surprised by Ontario Tourism Minister Michael Chan's announcement last week that the province wouldn't put a gambling establishment in the park after it undergoes a complete overhaul.

"If Ontario Place and Exhibition Place were somehow put together at grade, it would have made the site more desirable, but that is just one of several sites we're looking at in the GTA," Godfrey said.

Four possible sites for a casino have already been talked about — the Woodbine Live racetrack complex in Rexdale, Exhibition Place on the west waterfront, Ontario Place, or the yet-to-be developed Port Lands on the east waterfront

But the waterfront locations have received a lot of attention in the media, and one potential developer, MGM Resorts, said it is particularly keen on a casino on the waterfront.

But Godfrey maintained an Ontario Place location was only one of the options.

"It's not considered a setback at all, because the hype on the site was set in the media, not by those of us that were looking at potential sites," Godfrey said.

'You'll have to see what the plan is'

When asked about criticism the idea of a casino in the city is already attracting, Godfrey pointed out that the proposal isn't only to build a casino — it’s to build a major casino and entertainment complex that includes retail stores, restaurants and other tourist attractions.

A casino, he said, would account of less than 10 per cent of the overall physical space. The development, he said, would created thousands of new jobs, stimulate economic growth and attract tourists.

When pressed that those arguments have not yet assuaged the fears of some who are opposed to a casino, Godfrey said the public should wait until more details for the complex are released before passing judgment.

"You'll have to see what the plan is," said Godfrey.

"You know if you go in with an attitude that you don't want anything, you don't want job creation in the community, you don't want new tax sources of revenue, you don't want additional revenue to the province, which will help offset education and health care costs, you can close all the present casinos in Ontario and do away with $2 billion that goes to the province at this point in time that generates money for healthcare and education."

City of Toronto staff will study the costs and benefits of a potential casino development and report to council's executive committee in October. The executive committee will then vote on how to move forward, then council will have the final say on whether a casino should be built in the city.