Toronto Casino Debate Put to the Public

The OLG-proposed Toronto casino has been debated by politicians, casino operators, and business legal councilors – but now the public gets to be heard.  The city officially began the public consultation process on Friday December 14 with the launch of a website devoted to the consultation.  The site will include an online survey asking for public feedback, and the dates of five open house meetings in various locations across Toronto in January.

Toronto city council has already been given several reports about the casino, some that tout the benefits while others warn of socioeconomic risks.  The consulting firm Ernst & Young submitted a report in October that suggested Toronto stands to gain over $200 million each year from revenues and fees associated with hosting a casino.  On the other hand, public health officer Dr. David McKeown drafted a report asking the OLG plan to be scrapped due to perceived mental health risks to Toronto’s most vulnerable and addictive personalities.  It was McKeown’s report that resulted in Toronto’s board of health overwhelmingly voting against the casino plan – a position now supported by Ontario’s PC party.

Public opinion on the casino has reportedly been split down the middle with residents recognizing the potential benefits as well as the associated risks of a casino.  To that end Toronto is hosting five open house meetings for the public to openly express opinions about the casino.  These meetings will occur over a 10 day period in mid-January in locations ranging from Toronto city hall to the Etobicoke Olympium Gymnasium and the Scarborough Civic Centre.  City Manager Joe Pennachetti will later write a report for Toronto casino sub-committee that compiles public opinion from these meetings in order to officially recommend or reject the casino.

The OLG’s gaming modernization plan involves a casino in the GTA with Toronto, Mississauga, Markham, or Richmond Hill as possible locations.  Toronto was initially the focus of the OLG’s efforts but OLG President Rod Phillips said in November that the greater GTA could be more beneficial for gaming revenue than downtown Toronto – a strategic statement that puts emphasized pressure on the public and city council to make the right decision.

The OLG has given Toronto until mid-February to publicly announce its official position on the casino.

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