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Toronto has until early 2013 to decide on casino, OLG's Paul Godfrey warns

Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey.

Pawel Dwulit/Pawel Dwulit/The Canadian Press

Toronto politicians have to decide by early 2013 whether to allow a new casino in the city.

OLG Chairman Paul Godfrey warned Friday that time is running out. The provincial gambling agency needs to know within a few months, he said, noting that plenty of other Ontario municipalities would be glad to have the casino if Toronto says no.

"What we have to do it get this process finalized in 2013. It's not there, we're going to go somewhere else and get a decision and move on with it," Mr. Godfrey told reporters. "We know that city council is going to debate this at the executive committee in November ... so I would think that January, February at the latest."

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But he stressed to reporters that his preference is for Toronto, and argued "the waterfront or downtown" is the only place that makes sense for an "iconic" facility.

"Why do you think the big hotels are downtown Toronto? Why do you think the Air Canada Centre is in Toronto? Why do you think the Rogers Centre is in downtown Toronto? Why do you think the new aquarium is in Toronto? They could have built an aquarium up in Newmarket, they could've built the Air Canada Centre out in Oshawa."

The OLG proposal, which has divided politicians and the public and sparked concerns about social ills, calls for a large-scale casino somewhere in the Greater Toronto Area. A location has not been chosen.

Mr. Godfrey was backed by local star chef Mark McEwan and Gamal Aziz, president and CEO of MGM Mirage Hospitality, one possible partner in such a casino.

"For what we do, downtown is the option that we would focus on," said Mr. Aziz, who wouldn't say which of the proposed locations -- the Portlands, Exhibition Place or Convention Centre -- is most appealing to his firm.

Mr. Godfrey had earlier laid out his business case for a new local casino to the Toronto Board of Trade, arguing that the project would create thousands of new jobs and lead to more than $2-billion in capital investments.

Mr. Godfrey, who stressed that the facility would not be imposed on any municipality, pointed in his speech to a long-standing slots operation in Etobicoke as evidence that concerns about loan-sharking and other crime were overblown.

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"Those that still connect casinos and crime are still stuck in the mythologies of the Bugsy Siegel days," he said.

He laid out a vision of a hospitality, retail and entertainment complex, in which gambling takes up less than 10 per cent of the space. Such a project would create 6,000 construction jobs and 12,000 permanent jobs

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About the Author

Oliver Moore joined the Globe and Mail's web newsroom in 2000 as an editor and then moved into reporting. A native Torontonian, he served four years as Atlantic Bureau Chief and has worked also in Afghanistan, Grenada, France, Spain and the United States. More

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