Do T.O.'s Neighbours Want A Casino?

Published: January 24, 2013 04:20 pm EST

In his on-air interview with Global Television earlier this week, MGM's Jim Murren specifically stated that if the City of Toronto opts to not embrace full-blown downtown casino expansion, many of its neighbouring municipalities would jump at the chance. Based solely on information that has been made public to this point, Murren's perception of the situation doesn't appear to be entirely accurate.

"If Toronto chooses not to (support casino expansion) at the City Council level, there are plenty of cities all around Toronto that would be very willing to, and excited, to build and host such a large resort," Murren told Global Television.

Under the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.'s controversial gaming modernization plan, downtown Toronto falls into the 'C1' gaming zone. The C1 gaming zone encompasses a relatively small southern/waterfront section of Mississauga; a southern/waterfront section of Toronto that includes Front Street, the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition, and the Port Lands; and an area northeast of Toronto, which contains sections of Markham, Richmond Hill and Vaughan.

Although it is located within the City of Toronto's borders, the Woodbine Entertainment Group's Woodbine Racetrack is contained within its own designated gaming zone, C2, under the OLG plan. In addition to Woodbine Racetrack, C2 also covers some areas in Malton, Rexdale and alongside Highway 427.

The OLG has explained that the boundaries of its gaming zones are not set in stone and that they can be adjusted. Although, to this point, none of the municipalities within zone C1 have declared their municipalities as willing hosts for full-blown casino expansion.

The City of Toronto has completed five public consultation/feedback sessions regarding casino expansion, and, according to reports in the mainstream media, the consultations have proved that the public is firmly polarized on the subject with both 'pro' and 'con' sides being very well supported.

A report this week by has shined light on the fact that both Markham and Richmond Hill have stated that they are not interested in playing host to a casino under the OLG modernization plan.

The report also states that a motion recently introduced to Vaughan City Council that would declare the city as a willing host municipality for casino expansion was abandoned following a lengthy council debate. The council exchange unearthed that at least four of the eight council members at the meeting did not support the idea of a Vaughan casino.

The article leads off by stating that Vaughan council has directed city staff to gather more facts and more information on the subject before it comes to a final decision on the matter.

Looking to Toronto's immediate west, the City of Mississauga has been very quiet on the topic of casino expansion for months now. The last time any official position/opinion came from a political figure in Mississauga was back in June of 2012.

When asked back in June, Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion was quoted as saying, “I am not chasing a casino because we don’t own land... we have very little vacant land in Mississauga for the type of casino planned that is in the works. As I understand it, it’s going to be a major entertainment centre, not just a casino. So that’s going to take up a lot of land.” McCallion then added, “Quite honestly, I can’t think of any land in Mississauga that would be available for that because we’re pretty well developed.”

Although it does not find itself within the C1 gaming zone, the City of Hamilton has found itself in a very public, bitter dispute over allowing full-blown casino expansion within its downtown core.

As it currently stands, despite what Murren proclaimed during his interview with Global Television, there is not a single municipality within the OLG's current C1 gaming zone that has opened its arms to the idea of MGM or any high profile casino operator setting up shop within its borders.