Toronto casino debate to resume in the fall

The simmering issue of whether to build a casino in Toronto will be put on the back burner for a few more months while city staff study it further.

The simmering issue of whether to build a casino in Toronto will be put on the back burner for a few more months while city staff study it further.

City council's executive committee on Monday opted to ask staff instead to look closely at the costs and benefits of a potential casino development. A report is expected to be ready for an executive committee meeting in October.

Ontario's Lottery and Gaming Corporation wants to build a casino somewhere in the Greater Toronto Area to increase its revenue. OLG chair Paul Godfrey has already issued somewhat of an ultimatum to Toronto — the province will build a casino-resort complex in one of the surrounding municipalities if Toronto delays the process by conducting a referendum on the issue.

Several councillors have already voiced their opposition to building a casino any time soon.

Mayor Rob Ford, who supports the idea of building a casino, agreed that the issue needs further study before a decision is made.

"We need more information. I'm not one to pull any punches. I've always supported a casino. And I do in this case. I believe if we find the right location, we could bring in close to $100 million in revenue," he said.

"I just don't want to lose it to Mississauga or Markham."

But a representative for MGM Resorts, the corporation than runs Las Vegas casinos like Bellagio and Luxor, said his company is only interested in building a casino resort complex in Toronto.

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

In a presentation to the executive committee, Alan Feldman, the vice-president of public affairs for MGM, pushed the idea of a waterfront development.

"The farther away you get from either the central business district or the water, the less likely it becomes an opportunity for us," he said.

City staff will study a number of issues around the construction of a possible casino, including job creation, revenue generation for the city, crime levels, and any possible social effects related to problem or addictive gambling.