No more bets on the Toronto casino – the votes are now in. Toronto city council concluded a special debate today with a vote on whether to approve a casino within the OLG’s C1 Gaming Zone, the downtown Toronto location, and C2, the region north of the core including the Woodbine Racetrack.
The votes were tallied at 40-4 against the downtown location, and 24-20 against expanding gambling at the Woodbine racetrack. The two votes were brought to motion by a majority of anti-casino city councilors, led by Mike Layton, who is one of the strongest voices against the OLG casino proposals. The meeting was nearly pulled from the agenda, but Layton and his allies used their majority position to force the debate in what he described as Toronto’s opportunity to “finish off” the casino proposal.
The vote is another setback for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who is fending criticism for a serious controversy. Ford was one of the OLG’s strongest allies on city council, and routinely lobbied in favour of what he called “10,000 good paying union jobs” that would be generated through casino development. However, the mayor backed away from his position last week as the Ontario government refused to confirm if Toronto would receive the minimum $100 million casino hosting fee Ford said was necessary for his support.
In a speech at city council this morning, Ford reiterated his position that the blame for the Toronto casino going bust lies at the feet of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
“She doesn’t want a casino in Toronto. No one knows which direction she’s going on the gaming file.”
Toronto City Manager Joe Pennachetti, who wrote a report outlining a cost-benefit analysis for the city with feedback from public consultation meetings in January, also fielded questions during the debate. Pennachetti noted that a vote against the casino doesn’t mean Torontonians will be spared supposed problem gambling and social health issues.
“We must realize that there will most certainly be a new casino in the GTA, whether it is in Toronto or in the 905.”
While pundits expected the vote against the downtown location, the Woodbine decision came as a surprise. The racetrack is in need of new ways to generate revenue as Ontario’s horseracing industry adjusts to the modern gambling era.