Canada's Condominium Magazine

Is Toronto ready for a casino?

Harmless fun, stupid waste of money, or life-destroying addiction? Gambling can be all of these. People should be able to decide for themselves, shouldn’t they? 

“Caesars representatives will be visiting the city next week to get the lay of the land.”

Say that sentence while chomping on a fat cigar, with an Edward G Robinson snarl in your voice. Sounds kind of sinister, doesn’t it?

“Well listen soldier. Thousands of guys got guns, but there’s only one Johnny Rocco.” Yeah. 

But this is Caesars Entertainment Corp., we’re talking about, the “gambling giant” based in Nevada, not the mob. The largest gaming company in the world owns more than 50 casinos and hotels, and numerous golf courses, taking in billions in revenues. And they think a Toronto casino would make a nice addition to their portfolio. They are thinking in terms of a billion-dollar investment, at least.

Caesars isn’t the only company interested in bringing big-time gambling to Toronto. MGM Resorts International and Las Vegas Sands Corp. have expressed interest too. MGM apparently would spend several billion dollars and create 6,000 jobs to bring their vision to reality.

They are responding to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s (OLG) open invitation to such companies to present their ideas for “world-class gaming facilities” in our city. All of the interested parties agree that Toronto is a great city for a casino—they talk more about resort/entertainment complexes than casinos, but let’s call a spade a spade.

City politicians and business leaders have been talking about where they’d like to see the casino built: Exhibition Place (the mayor); Ontario Place; Woodbine racetrack; the Port Lands. And all of them paint a rosy picture of a great new attraction for the city, with shopping and restaurants and entertainment to draw tourists, and many benefits to all.

The trouble is, it looks like Torontonians don’t want the thing. At least, not in their own backyards. A poll of 954 people conducted on May 15 by Strategic Communications revealed that support for a waterfront casino is weak at best. Opposition grows when the casino is located in respondents’ own neighbourhood.

These NIMBY opponents are to be expected. Who would want a massive development, with the attendant traffic, noise and rowdiness, anywhere near their home?

But there’s a good deal of opposition on principle as well. There are many who oppose gambling because they consider it a kind of sickness, and don’t think governments should be exploiting it for their own gain. Gambling ruins lives, breaks marriages and families, destroys neighbourhoods, they say, and there’s plenty of evidence that this is sometimes true. But it isn’t always true. Not, for instance, for the seniors who jump on buses every day and head for a day at the casino as a fun-filled outing. Or the millions who fly to Vegas every year and have a great holiday. 

This, it must be said, is a conundrum. Everyone knows that gambling is a sucker’s game, but many enjoy it anyway. People like to play Bingo, at the church hall, no less. Organizations of all kinds hold “Monte Carlo” nights with Black Jack tables and slot machines to raise money for charity. And those Lotto Max $50 million jackpots every week don’t get there by magic: millions of us buy the tickets even though we know we haven’t got a chance in hell of winning. A tax on the stupid, is what lotteries have been called, but when it comes to a chance, however remote, to win money, we become stupid willingly. Isn’t that our right?

Another thing: there is always opposition. No matter what is proposed, some will be against it, often for moral reasons. Some of us are old enough to remember when you couldn’t go to a movie in Toronto on a Sunday, or shop, or drink. We don’t think public morals have declined since those particular, hard-fought battles were lost by the Sunday-is-for-reading-the-Bible crowd.

What do you think about a casino in TO?

 

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