Toronto has been wrestling with the OLG’s gaming modernization plan for the better part of 2012, which will indeed extend into 2013. The OLG has made clear its interest in establishing a casino within Toronto or the surrounding regions, but has left the final decision to city council. The issue has divided much of the city into supporters and opponents of the OLG casino strategy, while several developers have suggested using casino revenue to help fund infrastructure projects – notably, repairs to the Gardiner Expressway.
The casino has divided much of the city between social and economic benefits and setbacks for the city’s millions of residents. Opposition groups, led by Toronto’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. David McKeown, have highlighted risks that a casino could pose for low income workers and families – chiefly, the potential for increased problem gambling cases across the city. Conversely, pro-casino groups have argued the economic benefits of a casino could help fund social health programs to treat cases of problem gambling, while also providing extra funding to deal with Toronto’s several infrastructure projects.
One of the latest proposals put forward by pro-gambling advocates is using the expected $170 million in casino revenues for the city to fund restructuring or redesigning the Gardiner Expressway. The Gardiner has proven outdated and structurally weak for years, and frequently has pieces of the expressway falling to the ground below. City engineers estimate that repairing the Gardiner could cost upwards of $505 million, while rebuilding it could potentially cost billions in repairs. It is because of the expensive estimates that casino lobbyists and pro-casino city councilors have suggested using casino revenues to help fund the costs for the Gardiner repairs.
There has also been talk of redesigning the Gardiner to install the expressway within the ground to remove the risk of pavement falling to the ground. Advocates for this idea argue an in-ground expressway could help transform Toronto into a preferred tourist destination once again, and a casino would provide a new entertainment venue for tourists from the rest of Ontario, all of Canada, and around the entire world.
Both the casino and the restructuring of the Gardiner Expressway will change Toronto’s future – but time is of the essence for both projects.