The province’s lottery agency has redrawn the map for a proposed casino in the Toronto area, adding a new site in Vaughan in a move that increases its options if Toronto says no to a mega-resort on its waterfront.
The change, made quietly some time in recent weeks, appears on the web site of Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. in maps of proposed gaming “zones.” The zones – 29 in all across the province – designate areas picked by OLG for a casino. Under the plan released by OLG last spring, Toronto’s downtown waterfront was grouped with two other areas – southern Mississauga and Markham-Richmond Hill– in a single zone. Maps on the OLG website now include a fourth option – a section of Vaughan near the intersection of highways 400 and 407 that will soon be served by the Spadina subway extension. “Revised March 2013,” says a note below the map on the web site.
OLG chief executive Rod Phillips has indicated that the provincial agency is willing to alter the boundaries of its gaming zones, but no formal announcement was made about the addition of the land in Vaughan.
The gaming zone that includes the Toronto waterfront is critical to OLG’s plan to increase the money it contributes to the province from gambling revenue. Without a new casino in or on the border of the province’s largest city, its goal of adding an additional $1-billion annually to provincial coffers could be jeopardized. But so far, none of the municipalities that share the same gaming zone as downtown Toronto have agreed to host a casino and the province has said it will not located one where it is not wanted.
The OLG has indicated that it decided to add the new Vaughan site to the gaming zone based on industry interest in the area. The City of Vaughan held an information meeting on the potential of a casino and entertainment complex last fall, but no decision on whether to accept a casino has been made by the municipality.
The provincial agency added the new site in Vaughan as part of the gaming zone this fall, an OLG spokesman said. No reason was given for why it took until March to publicly acknowledge the change in the update to its web site.
The push for a Toronto waterfront casino suffered a major blow this week after Premier Kathleen Wynne called OLG executives to her office to tell them Toronto could not get a special deal. If, as many are predicting, Toronto council rejects the downtown casino plan, the revised map gives OLG another GTA municipality to court.
Beyond that, the addition of the Vaughan area raises questions about the future of the city’s existing gambling facility at Woodbine Racetrack, a short distance away.
Councillor Doug Ford, the Mayor’s brother and one of the few members of council besides the Mayor pushing for a downtown casino, predicted that if Toronto rejects a facility downtown, one will be built just beyond its borders in Vaughan or Markham. “You’re killing Woodbine,” he told The Globe and Mail this week.