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Las Vegas Sands joins the competition for Toronto’s (still hypothetical) casino

The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore (Image: Enrique Dans)

Despite the fact that city council is a very long way from approving a casino in the city (the first staff report on the idea isn’t due until October), several companies are already plotting how to be the one to build it. The latest to register lobbyists is Las Vegas Sands, which will be competing alongside Vegas heavyweights MGM and Caesars Entertainment, Canadian mega-firms Onex and Oxford Properties and Larry Tanenbaum, the billionaire chair of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. Las Vegas Sands senior vice-president Andy Abboud told reporters the resort giant has explored sites all over the GTA, but its main interest is in the downtown core and waterfront. Not surprising, considering the company is known for building mixed-use complexes with convention centres, retail and entertainment. (It’s also known for balancing a massive ship atop three towers in Singapore, but that’s besides the point—we hope.) [Globe and Mail]

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The Metro Toronto Convention Centre is the latest object of casino rumours

(Image: Ian McKellar)

Ontario Place is off the list of probable sites for a GTA casino, but an even more central downtown waterfront location could now be in the running. Citing two unnamed sources within Oxford Properties Group, the Toronto Star reports the company is interested in adding a casino-entertainment complex to their big revamp of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and nearby properties. Should city council okay a casino in Toronto, the centre would propose dedicating one floor to gambling in a project that would also have retail and office space and, naturally, condos. Still, we’d guess that proposal would be unlikely to succeed. First, Oxford’s plan hardly sounds like the massive entertainment complex that Paul Godfrey envisions and MGM has proposed. And second, the unnamed sources from the property group portrayed the company as “joining in the casino discussions with less zeal” than the Las Vegas developers. And it’s going to to take plenty of zeal to push a project as contentious as a downtown casino through to completion. [Toronto Star]

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Q&A: Paul Godfrey, chair of the OLG, is on a mission to bring a Las Vegas–style casino to Toronto


Paul Godfrey

(Image: Mark Peckmezian)

You were a popular politician, brought the Blue Jays to town, resuscitated the National Post and cleaned up the OLG. Does the uproar over your latest crusade—bringing a casino to town—jeopardize your legacy?
Anyone familiar with my background knows I’d never do anything to injure Toronto’s image. This won’t be a few slot machines in a broken-down barn; it’ll be a world-class entertainment centre and a tourist magnet.

What will it look like?
I’m picturing something like the Venetian or the MGM Grand in Vegas—a ground-floor casino with a glamorous hotel and unbelievable shopping. I could also see a permanent Cirque du Soleil show.

Why do we need a casino?
If we don’t build one, our tourists will go to Boston, Cleveland and Baltimore, which are all building world-class casinos.

You live near the Bridle Path. Would you want a casino in your neighbourhood?
I make no apologies for having a very nice house. I grew up in poverty and earned my way. But there’s nowhere to put a casino on the Bridle Path.

Read the rest of this entry »

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MLSE’s Larry Tanenbaum joins the ranks of wannabe casino owners 

The latest big-wig to dream about owning a colossal casino on Toronto’s waterfront is Larry Tanenbaum, billionaire and chair of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. Like MGM Resorts International, which has been quite vocal about its preference for a waterfront casino, Tanenbaum was quoted in the Globe and Mail saying he’d prefer a casino along the water, near the core. While most of the early buzz came from Nevada stalwarts like MGM and Caesars Entertainment, Tanenbaum is the second mega-rich Torontonian to show interest. Earlier this week, Gerald Schwartz, head of the Toronto-based buyout firm Onex Corporation and one of the 25 Canadians to make Forbes’ billionaires list, told the Globe and Mail Onex would “definitely be interested” in opening a casino in Toronto, and not just on the downtown waterfront. Another difference between the two Toronto-based titans? Schwartz is the owner of the Tropicana hotel and casino in Las Vegas and Casino ABS in Edmonton, Lethbridge and Calgary. Tanenbaum, meanwhile, only has gaming experience on a much smaller scale: his company, the Kilmer Group, operates charity bingo gaming centres in Barrie, Hawkesbury, Pembroke, Penetang and Sudbury, Ontario. Since casino proponents are thinking mega-complexes, not bingo halls, Tanenbaum had better start looking for partners. [Globe and Mail]

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The famous Bunny Ranch brothel is coming to Toronto

(Image: screenshot from the Toronto Sun’s website)

One of the side effects of the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision to legalize bawdy-houses: awkward newspaper columns (and even more awkward homepage images). In the Toronto Sun today, columnist and self-described libertarian Mike Strobel gets pretty… excited about the possibility of Toronto getting a Bunny Ranch brothel. Dennis Hof, who owns the famous brothel chain in Nevada, spoke to Strobel over the phone—while surrounded by “a whole bunch of beautiful half-naked women”—and said he plans to visit Toronto this June to scout sites that could accommodate 15 to 20 rooms for conducting business, a dorm for the ladies and a five-star restaurant. In addition to the permissive legal climate, Hof says he’s drawn to Toronto because it’s a “classy European kind of city with flair and style.” Though, if Toronto signs up for both an MGM mega-casino and a Bunny Ranch brothel, the city will have more in common with Las Vegas than Europe. Read the entire story [The Toronto Sun] »

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