City councillors will have to wait to cast their votes on a Toronto casino.
A highly anticipated report to Mayor Rob Ford’s executive committee on the controversial question of new gaming facilities in Toronto will not be released as planned next week, a spokeswoman for the city confirmed late Friday. The city is waiting for additional information from the province’s lottery agency, she said.
The delay means that the issue will not be debated by Mr. Ford’s executive committee at its meeting on March 20, as planned. A special meeting of the mayor’s executive will be called to consider the report when it is ready, or, depending on the timing, it will go to the next regular meeting, scheduled for April 23. A special council meeting also may be required.
“We do not have a date yet,” city spokeswoman Jackie DeSouza said. “It will be up to the mayor to call the special executive and the special council meeting.”
Council was set to debate the issue at its meeting in the first week of April. Depending on when the staff report is ready, it may go to a special meeting or be pushed to the next regular meeting that is scheduled to begin May 7, Ms. DeSouza said.
Rod Phillips, CEO of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., said the agency is working with city staff to provide them with the information. The delay can be accommodated within the province’s wider plan to modernize its casino programs, he said.
“We think the most important thing is that the city staff and, finally, the city council have the information they need and we are happy to work with them,” he said.
The city staff report, requested by the mayor’s executive in November, will consider the pros and cons of a casino in the city’s downtown and also the expansion of the existing gaming facilities at Woodbine racetrack. It also will include the results of public consultations held earlier this year on the casino question.
A key issue will be how much the city will gain from hosting a casino. Mr. Phillips said the OLG has indicated that the figure will be between $50-million and $100-million.
A new casino in the Toronto area is part of a plan by the OLG to expand gaming facilities in Ontario, but the province has said it will not force a casino on a community that does not want one. The mayor has indicated he favours a casino for the money and jobs it would bring to the city, but the support for a casino from a majority of councillors is far from a sure thing.
Critics of the casino plan were quick to characterize the delay as a political tactic by the mayor’s office. No amount of time will improve the financial benefits for the city, Councillor Adam Vaughan said.
“They don’t have the numbers, they don’t have the votes and they don’t have the support of the city,” he said.
Earlier in the day, when the prospect of a delay had yet to be confirmed, another casino foe, Councillor Joe Mihevc, said it was time to bring the issue to council.
“Too much time – staff time – has been spent on this issue without it coming to council and without anything in writing,“ he said.
Lobbying from both camps has increased in the weeks leading up to the report, with representatives from the team behind a proposed MGM casino complex at Exhibition Place unveiling their plans earlier this week.
A grassroots group, No Casino Toronto, is urging citizens to sign their petition against a downtown facility and contact their local councillors.