Three former mayors speak out against casino
A casino industry professional tests the newest slot machines on display at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Published Wednesday, January 30, 2013 11:16AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, March 6, 2013 12:47PM EST
Three former Toronto mayors have penned an open letter to city council arguing against a proposed casino for the city.
The letter, which was signed by David Crombie, John Sewell and Art Eggleton, comes one week after the chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International shared his vision for a massive casino at Exhibition Place in a speech to the Economic Club of Canada.
MGM Resorts International are believed to be just one of several Las Vegas heavyweights interested in building a gaming complex in Toronto, should city council vote in favour of one.
“Toronto is not about to become another Las Vegas, a tourist gambling destination. And we wouldn’t want it to,” the letter states. “Much of the casino revenues are likely to be generated locally by taking away from other games of chance and lotteries. There are already enough gambling opportunities. We say enough is enough. Governments shouldn’t be expanding gambling opportunities as a means of balancing their budgets. A commercial casino operation is not in Toronto’s best interest.”
Mayor Rob Ford has previously argued in favour of building a casino in Toronto, saying that the facility could generate millions of dollars in revenue for the city while creating thousands of jobs.
A November report from city manager Joe Pennachetti seemed to back up Ford’s thinking, suggesting that a casino would generate $27 million annually in property taxes and up to $2.4 billion in construction spending.
That said, not everyone on council is in favour of the idea, with left-of-centre councillors like Adam Vaughan and Mike Layton arguing that the social cost of a casino would be considerable.
Public opinion has also been mixed, with residents on both sides of the issue showing up in droves at five public consultations held across the city earlier this month.
“In the years we served in office, we saw countless proposals that proponents said would bring the city big revenues, many jobs, and much prestige,” the letter says. “And some of them did, but beware the sales pitch. The numbers don’t always add up, and we think that is a real possibility in this case. Revenues can be inflated and costs such as police services and traffic congestion underestimated. In fact, extensive research in the U.S., carried out by Earl Grinols, professor of economics at Baylor University, indicates that for every $1 in benefit, there is a cost of at least $3.”
Other locations that are reportedly being considered for a Toronto casino include the Port Lands, the downtown core and Woodbine Racetrack.
City council is expected to vote on the matter sometime in April.
Crombie, Sewell and Eggleton were the 56th, 57th and 58th mayors of Toronto, collectively occupying the city’s top job from 1972 to 1981.
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