Toronto city council has until mid-2013 to submit its approval or rejection of a casino proposal to the OLG. However, the city’s board of health has already voted its rejection of a casino in Toronto. The vote was 9-1 for a motion submitted by Councilor Joe Mihevc, which rejects the OLG’s expanded gambling plans in the city, due to perceived impacts gambling has on public health, in a report written by the city’s Medical Health Officer Dr. David McKeown. Mihevc said Dr. McKeown’s recommendations persuaded the health board that they had to vote against a casino in the city.
Dr. McKeown suggested in his report that a GTA casino would lead to a rise in problem gambling. If Toronto council were to vote in favour of the casino, Dr. McKeown made several recommendations he believes the city should demand from the OLG. These recommendations include no ATMs or alcohol on the casino floor, and imposing a maximum daily loss limit that casino operators should enforce.
However, the Canadian Gaming Association has dismissed McKeown’s report, by stating it is misguided and ill-informed. Caesars Entertainment CEO Gary Loveman also spoke against Dr. McKeown’s report at an Economic Club of Canada luncheon, in part due to Caesars being one of the potential bidders competing for the Toronto casino rights. He was trying to build support for the casino by suggesting regulations on alcohol and tobacco allow the majority of the population to enjoy those products despite a few problems, and gambling should work the same.
“We tend not to restrict access to something that is consumed safely by the vast majority and restrict it because of its unsafe consumption by the very few.”
The board of health also voted to do more research on health burdens a casino could be responsible for. This new report is expected before Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s casino sub-committee votes on the OLG proposal. However, with the board of health already dismissing the OLG plans, it puts extra pressure on the committee to make a compelling argument in favour of the casino.