Ontario gaming news continues to stream out of various provincial outlets at a torrid pace.
Four Ontario Liberal Leadership candidates have again gone on the record regarding a possible Hamilton casino referendum. Ottawa's mayor has gone on the defensive after accusations of closed-door strategizing with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. The Toronto Community Council and a Canadian National Exhibition figurehead are beside themselves over MGM's casino expansion proclamations, and a Paul Godfrey-operated media outlet is employing a hard push of a public opinion poll, concluding that Toronto's public has fully embraced casino expansion.
Merely hours after MGM Grand Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren coincidentally stated during a pressing interview that Toronto has "a little bit better than a 50/50 chance of actually coming through with this (casino expansion)," the National Post, which is run by OLG Chairman Paul Godfrey, published a story bearing the headline 'Majority of Toronto supports building casino: poll'.
As the National Post article explains, the poll, which was conducted by Ipsos Reid, found that 54 per cent of the 906 people that were polled last week on the issue stated that they 'either strongly or somewhat support a new gambling venue' somewhere within the City of Toronto's borders. In giving a chance to comment on the poll's findings, Ipsos' John Wright, the organization's senior vice president, stated that the 54 per cent number represented "a significant lead" and stated that "it's not a slight edge."
After extrapolating the poll's findings to be representative of the entire Mega City, which is home to more than 5.5-million residents, Wright commented that, in regard to the highly contentious Toronto casino expansion discussion, “There is a lot of talking going on, but people have pretty much made up their minds except for a very small group."
The results of the Ipsos Reid poll have been published and pushed in the mainstream Toronto media at a very interesting time, seeing as though the City of Toronto has just wrapped up a series of five contentious public consultation sessions regarding casino expansion in the past few weeks. Also, the City of Toronto is also in the home stretch of its online campaign to gauge public feedback on casino expansion.
Although Wright and Ipsos Reid have stated that Torontonians "have pretty much made up their minds," councillors that collectively comprise the Toronto and East York Community Council sure aren't sharing the same sentiment, and neither is CNE Association President Brian Ashton.
As the Toronto Star has reported, members of the community council are saying that they still cannot get some straight answers regarding Toronto casino expansion even though there has been much private and public discussion on the issue.
“With all due respect, I’m getting tired of beating around the bush for answers to some of these questions,” the article quoted Councillor Mike Layton as saying. “I don’t think the city had anything to do with choosing the sites (proposed casino expansion sites within the city). If we open the doors (to a casino) they’re allowed to go anywhere.”
The Star report has also cited Ashton as saying that his CNE organization 'had never been consulted on whether the grounds were a suitable site' for an 'integrated-resort' casino. The article has quoted Ashton as saying that his organization feels that the CNE has "reached the point where we can’t adapt anymore.” The article also explains that the Ontario economy annually receives $80 million from the CNE, $57 million of which is in the GTA, and that $10 million gets returned to the city annually. To that end, Ashton said, “It’s not something to turn your back on too quickly in looking for a bigger cash cow.”
Staying with the MGM/CNE situation, councillors on the community panel rhetorically queried how the 11,000 needed parking spaces for such an expansion could be accommodated.
Meanwhile, in Hamilton, where Councillor Sam Merulla has stated that he will again be pushing for a referendum on the controversial topic of downtown casino expansion, Ontario Liberal Leadership four of the six candidates have again gone on the record in regard to the topic. Eric Hoskins, Gerard Kennedy, Charles Sousa and Kathleen Wynne have all provided their most recent position on the topic, and their thoughts can be read by clicking here.
The office of Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson was thrown into a bit of a scandal earlier this week when it was unearthed in the press that the mayor and members of his office strategized with the OLG in regard to casino expansion under the radar of both the public and City Council. It was also reported that Watson purposely employed very short deadlines and opted for extremely minimal amounts of public feedback and consultation over the divisive issue.
The uproar has to do with the City of Ottawa declaring itself a willing host municipality for casino expansion under the OLG's controversial gaming modernization plan.
In what is starting to turn into a war of words in the media, Mayor Watson fired back at his accusers, stating that it's his role of mayor to “help shepherd negotiations between two levels of government, and we brought it through.”
As the report by the Ottawa Citizen explains, councillor Diane Deans is not buying what Mayor Watson is selling. “It was a two-week turnaround (from announcement to council vote). And the interesting part to me is this apparently came to the municipality’s attention in March and it didn’t come to the committee until October," Deans was quoted as saying. "There’s a pretty big gap there that would have allowed for the kind of community consultation that, in my estimation, we should have had.”
The Citizen has published another report on the issue, this time by respected journalist Joanne Chianello, who, as part of her long article, stated the following:
The mayor’s office may have been working on the casino file with the OLG since March, but the public and the council only heard about it on Sept. 24 when a flimsy report was released. A week later, there was a single committee meeting to give the public a chance to comment and on Oct. 10, council voted in favour of launching a bidding process for a gambling emporium.
When other cities have been taking months — and some more than a year — to get to that point, why the huge hurry in Ottawa?
As city documents show, OLG told the mayor’s office that the provincial gambling agency imposed no firm deadline for a decision and even told the mayor’s chief of staff that Kingston had been given until the end of 2012.
(With files from the CBC, the National Post, the Ottawa Citizen and the Toronto Star)