MGM and their Canadian property development partner Cadillac Fairview are the frontrunners for rights to the Toronto casino. Records show the group has been extensively lobbying city councilors throughout February, and are expected to continue fighting for the casino rights through March.
MGM unveiled designs for a gaming entertainment complex near the end of February, which propose a revitalization of the Toronto waterfront at Exhibition Place. Councilors on Rob Ford’s executive sub-committee have been shown design models of MGM’s plans as part of the organization’s lobbying efforts. Included in the designs was space for retail outlets and a hotel, as well as a new GO station stop in Liberty Village located nearby Exhibition Place. The executive sub-committee will vote on the casino proposal in the middle of March, while the entire city council will have final say in April.
Ford’s sub-committee is expected to approve the casino. The mayor has made no secret of his support for the OLG gaming modernization strategy, and has contributed to lobbying efforts by promoting the Toronto casino on his radio show. The sub-committee was hand-picked by Ford, and the majority of councilors on the committee are loyal to the mayor – suggesting opposition will be miniscule at best.
However, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday who is considered one of Ford’s most crucial allies is concerned that lobbying has gone too far and will unfairly skew the council’s vote.
“I’ve seen lobbyists affect decisions at council before. I know how these things work. People try to be your friend and make it difficult for you to deny their requests.”
Holyday shares concerns with Brian Ashton, President of the CNE, whose fairgrounds would be relocated closer to the now vacant Ontario Place in order to make room for the gaming entertainment centre. Ashton is concerned that the casino would take away business from the annual fair. He wants Ford and other councilors to consider other venues before voting on the OLG and in favour of MGM.