Larry Tanenbaum, the billionaire construction magnate and chair of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, is the latest big-name player to signal he’s game to make a bid for a Toronto casino.
Mr. Tanenbaum, who holds a minority stake in MLSE, says he favours a waterfront site for any proposed Toronto casino, including Exhibition Place, home to the Toronto FC soccer team’s BMO field.
“I’d like it down here somewhere,” Mr. Tanenbaum said on Tuesday after the groundbreaking for the Pan Am Games athlete’s village in Toronto’s Lower Don Lands. Mr. Tanenbaum’s firm, Kilmer Van Nostrand Co. Ltd., is a partner in the development, which will transform the former industrial land into a mixed use neighbourhood. The nearby Port Lands on the city’s eastern harbour is another potential casino site.
Mr. Tanenbaum, a familiar figure at Leaf home games, who gained attention for his letter of apology to fans after this year’s disappointing season, said any bid would require him to join forces with a company that has experience in major casino projects. Mr. Tanenbaum’s Kilmer Group already is in the gaming industry on a small scale, operating charity bingo gaming centres in Barrie, Hawkesbury, Pembroke, Penetang and Sudbury, Ont.
Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan has described a potential casino development as a “golden mile” with restaurants, theatres and exclusive shops. Mr. Tanenbaum echoed that description, saying any Toronto development would have to be “more than just four walls.”
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. announced earlier this year that it plans to open a casino in the GTA and is expected to start the process in the coming weeks by gauging whether there is interest in five or six potential sites.
Mr. Tanenbaum joins a growing field of potential competitors, including Toronto buyout firm Onex Corp. and major U.S. players such as Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International.
The province has said it won’t force a casino on the city if it is unwilling, but OLG’s chairman Paul Godfrey has indicated his first choice is a casino complex on Toronto’s waterfront.
Earlier this week, Mayor Rob Ford said he is partial to putting a casino at city-owned Exhibition Place, because of the money it would generate for the municipality.
Toronto council is divided in its support for a casino, but will not consider the issue until a staff report is presented this fall.