One of the country’s most prominent architects says a massive Toronto casino does not make sense from a real-estate perspective and would have crushing social impacts.
Jack Diamond, principal with Diamond and Schmitt Architects, met with The Globe and Mail’s editorial board Wednesday. Mr. Diamond, whose work includes Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts and the Israeli Foreign Ministry, told the board he is vehemently opposed to a large gaming complex in the city.
“The Exhibition grounds belong to the city of Toronto and the public,” he said, referring to one of the potential casino sites. “The fact that we’re not using it well is the excuse, currently. But once it’s gone, it’s gone. That is a public good that we should retain.”
Mr. Diamond was joined Wednesday by Maureen Lynett, co-founder of No Casino Toronto, and Sandy Garossino, co-founder of Vancouver Not Vegas, which in 2011 led the charge against a $500-million casino in downtown Vancouver.
Mr. Diamond, who is a member of the Order of Ontario and an Officer of the Order of Canada, said people who are problem gamblers tend to be at the bottom of the income scale. The money they would use on food, rent and clothes is instead handed over to casinos.
He said he is not opposed to the existing casino at Woodbine, but is against a new Toronto gaming facility because of its accessibility. “If you make high accessibility [gaming] in a central urban area, the impact of the casino will be far greater than having it at Woodbine,” he said.
The casino issue will go before Mayor Rob Ford’s executive committee later this month, with a full council vote expected in April. The mayor has expressed his support for the casino, arguing it will bring in millions in revenue and thousands of jobs.
Mr. Diamond questioned the revenue projections, which have ranged anywhere from $18-million to $106-million to $168-million.
The Port Lands site is also being considered for a casino and Mr. Diamond said that, too, would be a mistake. “I see that as an extraordinary future for this city. I mean, it’s a Venice on our city core boundary,” he said, referring to the area’s canals and its proposed redevelopment as a mixed-use residential site and parkland on the waterfront.
Ms. Lynett said No Casino Toronto has come a long way since she co-founded the group in June. The group has said a casino would increase crime and traffic gridlock. Ms. Lynett said the casino opposition is growing stronger and people no longer say to her, “Who are you?”