MGM unveils vision for massive casino complex
Published Wednesday, March 6, 2013 7:55AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, March 6, 2013 4:10PM EST
A massive casino complex being proposed for Exhibition Place would include 10 restaurants, a 1,200 room hotel in the shape of a curved sail, a shopping mall and a permanent theatre for Cirque du Soleil.
MGM Resorts International and Cadillac Fairview unveiled their vision for the 3 million square-foot complex during a briefing at the Sheraton Hotel on Queen Street Wednesday morning.
The complex would be built on the grounds between the Better Living Centre and BMO Field at a cost of $3-$4 billion.
According to officials with MGM Resorts International, the complex would generate 10,000 permanent full-time jobs and another 4,000 construction jobs.
The casino would take an estimated three years to build if approved by city council and about eight per cent of the site would be dedicated to gambling.
"We want to take all the assets that are at Exhibition Place, tie them together with an economic engine that is generating jobs and that’s generating money back to the city and we want to create excitement and activity on that site," Senior Vice President of Public Affairs with MGM Resorts International Alan Feldman told CP24. "It really is a chance for this area to get into an incredibly new and wonderful costume."
Other aspects of the proposal include establishing a Canadian Music Hall of Fame at Ontario Place, turning the Molson Amphitheatre into a year-round venue and building a “modernized” site for the Canadian National Exhibition called "Festival Plaza.”
Pedestrian bridges would also be built to connect the complex with the CNE, Liberty Village and Ontario Place.
“We are trying to provide some context for the discussion. We are trying to say this is what it could look like. All of the sturm und drang about what is going to happen when you put a casino in downtown is mostly emotion and fear base,” Feldman said. “What you will have are a whole lot of people working, what you will have is a whole lot of people participating in a legal and regulated activity and what you will have is a whole lot of money flowing back to government to do with what it thinks is appropriate for the social good.”
Wednesday’s briefing comes one day after a media report suggested that Mayor Rob Ford and 13 other councillors have already been given a private preview of MGM’s vision.
According to the report in the Globe and Mail, MGM has been lobbying hard for the project behind the scenes, using a suite at the Sheraton Centre across the street from city hall to pitch its ideas to city councillors.
Casino proving contentious
A staff report on a potential casino will be given to executive committee on Thursday.
Council would then vote on whether to allow a casino to set up shop in the city in early April.
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation would have final say on which proposal would be chosen.
Las Vegas heavyweights Onex, Caesars and Wynn Resorts are among the other reported suitors.
“It does not have a good social impact, it does not have a good economic impact and quite frankly it does not have a good planning impact,” City councillor and staunch casino opponent Adam Vaughan told CP24 Wednesday. “There is nothing here except the lure of what MGM does all over the world which is say ‘There is lots of money. Build a casino.’ There is no money.”
Mayor Rob Ford has voiced support for the idea of a downtown casino, saying it could be a way to help bring in revenue for the city without raising taxes, but on Wednesday Vaughan questioned just how much money would end up in city coffers.
“It is a lot of corporate pornography. There are pretty pictures, wonderful numbers, but the deal is the deal and that we won’t know about until after we have said yes and are cut out of the equation.” He said. “The easiest way to deal with this issue is just to say no.”
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