Earlier this week, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne shut down the OLG’s special casino hosting fees for the city of Toronto. The Premier publicly said all cities are entitled to the same revenue sharing arrangement, which may derail support for the Toronto casino. In leveling the playing field for other Ontario cities, the Premier pitted her government against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who argues the Ontario capital deserves preferential treatment.
Wynne hosted a meeting at Queen’s Park yesterday with OLG chairman Paul Godfrey to discuss the casino hosting fees. Godfrey said all Ontario communities will receive up to $20 million in casino hosting fees, but wanted Toronto to receive a special deal in the amount of $50 to $100 million.
The Premier responded that she recognizes Toronto is a larger municipality, but all cities deserve to be treated equally. Wynne told Godfrey if the OLG could afford to provide up to $50 million to all cities, then the larger revenue agreement could be back on the table. However, Ontario has little money to spare as it struggles to pay down a deficit, which makes the larger agreement unlikely.
Many pro-casino Toronto councilors, who are allies with Rob Ford, said their support for the OLG depends on a larger revenue sharing agreement for the casino, and the withdrawal of the more lucrative agreement could change their positions. Councilor David Shiner says he originally supported the casino, but will likely switch his stance if the revenue sharing agreement for Toronto is taken off the table. Anti-casino councilors like Adam Vaughan say the Premier’s decision proves that Godfrey and the OLG “ridiculously inflated” the benefits of a casino.
Mayor Ford says his support is unlikely to waver, but admits city council must review the new agreement before the proposal is put to a vote. He also challenged Premier Wynne, saying it was unfair to put Toronto in the same category as other Ontario cities.
“So to say we’re the same as Hamilton or Ottawa, it’s ridiculous.”
The Toronto casino is central to the OLG’s gaming modernization strategy, but the discrepancy over the casino hosting fees could disrupt the entire movement.