The City of Toronto has officially launched its online survey for city residents to submit their opinions on the proposed OLG casino. City council also released a short report discussing the financial, social, and health costs and benefits to encourage substantial public feedback on whether to support the casino or reject it.
The OLG is counting on an inclusion in the report about the annual hosting fees as reasonable enough benefits for the public to support the casino. According to the report, Toronto stands to make $50 million to $100 million in annual hosting fees for an “integrated entertainment complex” – which includes a casino – located at Exhibition Place, the Portlands, or the Toronto Convention Centre.
It appears that these three locations have been decided as the most viable options for a hotel and casino complex, which are narrowed down from a longer list of potential locations. However, initial estimates in a report commissioned by accounting firm Ernst & Young suggested Toronto was expected to receive over $168 million in hosting fees – a substantially higher amount than the figures presented in the latest council report. The Ernst & Young calculations were at the time considered unrealistic by the OLG, which claims it never made host revenue projections of that nature.
However, the revised projections are likely to weigh on the public’s mind as they complete the online survey because the hosting fees are one of the most significant economic benefits for installing a casino within the city. The number of jobs and reduction to property taxes are difficult to determine in preliminary discussions, but the hosting fees determine an annual revenue stream that the city can count on for its budget. This smaller guarantee could negate many of the pro-casino arguments that Toronto could economically benefit from a casino, and influence how the public weighs in with feedback on the proposal.
The OLG has given Toronto until March 1 to decide on whether to accept or reject the casino proposal, but public opinion will inevitably influence council’s decision.