Toronto remains embroiled in a divisive casino debate. The OLG, Mayor Rob Ford, and potential casino operators are lobbying citizens and city councilors to support the casino. Meanwhile problem gambling groups, Chief Medical Officer Dr. David McKeown, and social health organizations are encouraging councilors to reject the casino proposal. Weighing into the debate are three former Toronto mayors, who have thrown their support behind the anti-casino movement.
Former mayors David Crombie, John Sewell, and Art Eggleton – now a Liberal Senator – issued a joint letter to their successor Rob Ford, urging the mayor to reject the OLG casino. The former mayors write that they too were submitted investment proposals promising revenues, jobs, and elevated regard for Toronto in the global economy. However, they found that these perceived benefits were usually overstated, and warned the casino “sales pitch” will likely result in the same outcomes.
The mayors also stress their belief that a casino would decrease revenues for restaurants and small businesses in the neighbourhoods surrounding the gaming venue.
“In Atlantic City many restaurants have closed near the casinos, leaving a few pawnshops and cash for gold stores.”
The mayors indirectly took a swipe at OLG chairman Paul Godfrey – who earlier this year indicated he wouldn’t want a casino in his residential neighbourhood – by stating that Toronto’s expanding condo market means there are residential neighbourhoods all over the city. They also echoed statements from Dr. McKeown that a casino would increase addictive behaviours, and risk the social health of the community.
“We say enough is enough. Governments shouldn’t be expanding gambling opportunities as a means of balancing their budgets.”
Mayor Ford has been actively promoting the economic benefits of a casino, and stands firmly behind the proposal for a downtown location. OLG chairman Godfrey also remains committed to a Toronto casino; though he believes a waterfront location is ideal for the city – which suggests he supports a casino at Exhibition Place or the Portlands.