The Ontario government appears to be leaning away from any new formula for calculating hosting fees that would give Toronto a $100-million annual take from a casino.
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation has presented the Finance Ministry with several possible formulas for casino hosting fees, but the province has not decided which to use, government sources said on Friday.
In fact, the government has rejected every scenario that would allow Toronto to take in $100-million annually, said one source familiar with the talks.
One proposal based the fee formula on capital costs associated with building a casino in Toronto. Another would have adjusted the formula to give every municipality higher fees along with Toronto, but that would have reduced the province’s share of the revenue pie, the source said.
This is understood to be the trade-off: either Toronto receives less than $100-million, or other municipalities receive an enhanced revenue formula.
Premier Kathleen Wynne has insisted that, whatever the formula is, it must be the same for every municipality across the province.
So far, finance officials have been analyzing ideas from the OLG, and the proposals have not yet crossed the Premier’s desk for approval.
Work on the file is likely to kick up a notch next week, now that the provincial budget has been tabled. A special Toronto city council meeting is scheduled for May 21 to debate the casino question, and the formula is expected to be ready before then.
The $100-million figure is a magic number for some councillors, who have said they cannot back the plan if the city gets anything less.
A majority of councillors have said they cannot support a downtown casino.
But Mayor Rob Ford, who is pushing for a casino because of the revenue and jobs it is expected to bring, believes a revised funding formula will help him sway votes his way.
“Absolutely,” he told reporters on Friday when asked if he can win approval for a casino. “Like I said before, you’ve asked me this question 10 times.”
Asked what would make councillor who oppose a casino reconsider, Mr. Ford replied, “You are going to see what OLG says.”
The OLG confirmed on Friday that the formula is in the government’s hands – and said that no municipality had seen the options presented to finance.
“OLG completed the province-wide review of the Municipal Contribution Agreement and it is with the government. The results of the review have not been shared with any municipality,” spokesman Tony Bitonti wrote in an e-mail.