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The casino debate turns to location, location, location (and Torontonians disagree with MGM’s choice)

(Image: smneale)

Even though Toronto hasn’t agreed to host a casino—and may not even decide until 2014—the rampant speculation as to where it should go continues. The two main contenders: Etobicoke and the downtown waterfront. The Toronto Star reports U.S. giant MGM Resorts International is really only interested in spots close to the lake and the downtown business district, like Ontario Place or  the Port Lands. Though a recent poll touts Woodbine racetrack as a preferred casino location among Torontonians, MGM believes suburban Etobicoke is fine for an old-fashioned (read: lame-o) casino, but not for the multi-billion-dollar entertainment mecca it would like to build.

The Toronto Star spoke to MGM’s Alan Feldman, who made the company’s position quite clear:

If Toronto wants a casino, if that’s the will of city council or the province, they can have a casino—they can add some slot machines and table games to Woodbine and they’d be done. And they don’t need us.

Feldman added that he believes other large-scale developers (including Caesars Entertainment, which has expressed interest, according to the National Post) would have the same supercilious disdain for the Woodbine location:

Of the major players that build large-scale resorts, I don’t think you’d find any difference of opinion.

Woodbine Entertainment Group, which operates the Woodbine racetrack and its 3,000 slot machines, responded to MGM’s diss by insisting its site has plenty of space, and the support of residents. According to the Globe and Mail, however, it does not have the support of the Canadian Gaming Association which thinks Woodbine Entertainment lacks some the experience and muscle necessary to build an entertainment development of this scale. There’s yet one more snag: the company is involved in developing nearby Woodbine Live (kind of), a deal that comes with zoning rules prohibiting a casino.

This puts casino supporters in a bind: Torontonians who want a casino seem to want it far from downtown, but the players that can afford to sink $2 billion to $6 billion into the city don’t quite care for Rexdale.

Updated: This story has been changed from previous version that suggested the Canadian Gaming Association had explicitly expressed opposition to a casino bid by the Woodbine Entertainment Group.

• Woodbine location favoured for Toronto ‘entertainment destination’ [Globe and Mail]
• Gambling giants MGM, Caesars eye Toronto [National Post]
• Downtown waterfront or bust: Big casino resort won’t work at Woodbine, MGM says [Toronto Star]

  • P Burns

    A couple comments on your post…the CGA does not favour one site over another the poll actually shows there is acceptance for both Woodbine and Ontario/Exhibition Place – 54% vs 51% which is within the margin of error +/- 3.5%. Additionally, what it does show is strong support for a fully integrated casino resort entertainment facility in Toronto.

    While Woodbine Entertainment are an exceptional horse racing operator our comment simply pointed out they have not developed and operated a casino entertainment operation on the scale envisioned where MGM and like “have the muscle”, as the G&M quote reference to Woodbine states “does not do all the pieces” not lacking the muscle and nowhere in the story did we say we did not support a casino at Woodbine. Our results were simply to show Toronto residents support several locations for a casino resort.

    P Burns
    Canadian Gaming Association

  • Greg

    I hope this happens. Vegas North here we come. It needs to be downtown, and it should be waterfront!

    This could be so cool, and huge for Toronto. Don’t screw it up!

  • Simon

    As a property owner right by the waterfront I’d like to say I think this casino at the Ontario Place location is a horrible idea. The effects it would have on the investments thousands have made would be terrible.

    As a resident of Toronto I think any casino is a terrible idea. Sure, we’d get some income from gaming but the social impacts that a giant group of gambling addicts and infantile Vegas wannabe’s would be a financial and social curse on a city which doesn’t need a superficial addition such as a casino to raise its profile.

    Are we really supposed to believe that corporations such as MGM and Caesars have our best interests in mind?

  • Jonathan Elder

    This is easy.

    1) Giorgio Mammoliti’s riding.
    2) Anywhere in Etobicoke.

  • W. K. Lis

    Woodbine is the place for a casino, if we have to get one.

    However, if we do get a casino, and it is at Woodbine, I can see the Finch West LRT extended from its planned Humber College terminal, 1.5 km south to Woodbine. And if there are more than one hotel, the LRT could continue on to the airport.

  • G.

    Sorry, but I don’t have sympathy for Condo-owning NIMBYs. Exhibition and Ontario Place are little more than seasonally used urban wastelands. The casino could create thousands of new jobs and city revenue, assuming His Worship doesn’t screw it up. Tourists, both North American and international will be less inclined to go if it entail an expensive cab ride into the deep suburbs.

  • John

    Vegas North?? I thought that was Casino Rama…

  • Jen

    Being on the right side of the strip is so important in Vegas. Lots of casinos are popping up though on the other side and are doing fine.