Toronto, Ontario is the largest city in Canada and home to approximately 2.5 million people. Tourists enjoy a number of museums, theaters, the Toronto Zoo, and one gambling venue called Woodbine Racetrack. In the spring of 2012, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) announced a "modernization plan" for the province which includes the addition of a casino and hotel resort in the greater Toronto area. In spite of the fact that Ontario already has several casinos, the plan for this new facility in Toronto has faced significant opposition.
What is OLG?
OLG is a division of Canada's government responsible for administering all gambling-related activities in the country. It is in charge of the Canadian lottery, eBingo, and 10 gambling facilities across Canada. These facilities include OLG Casino Brantford, OLG Casino Sault Ste. Marie, and OLG Casino Thousand Islands. Paul Godfrey is the current chair of the Board of Directors. Godfrey is one of the major advocates of the new structure in Toronto.
Mayor Rob Ford: Supporting Godfrey in a New Casino for Toronto
Along with Godfrey, Toronto mayor Rob Ford favors the construction of a new downtown Toronto casino, citing increased jobs and economic stimulation as two of its greatest benefits.
Ford's support for the construction project has created a stir amongst Toronto citizens and lawmakers. Ford is not well-liked by all of his constituents; his reputation as a controversial politicianhas followed him into a hot debate over whether or not Toronto should get the new casino. On April 15, Ford attended a public rally to show his support for the proposed business. On this occasion, he insinuated that fellow politicians who do not join him in supporting his effort would suffer repercussions at the next election in October 2014.
"No Casino Toronto"
"No Casino Toronto" is a grassroots organization that opposes Ford and the OLG construction plan. The group believes a casino in Toronto would hurt the city, causing neighborhoods to deteriorate and creating a tax burden for citizens. The group refutes the idea that a new Toronto casino would create jobs, indicating that the OLG's current strategies are actually diminishing jobs with the elimination the Slots-at-Racetracks program. The group also maintains that the city's crime rate would increase in the form of theft, fraud, and money laundering if the proposed business were to be built downtown.
City Councilor Gloria Lindsay Luby: Just Say 'No' OLG's Toronto Plan
Gloria Lindsay Luby, a councilor in the city of Toronto, is the most recent of 22 key politicians to publicly oppose the creation of the Toronto casino. Only eight members on the council have voiced support for the project thus far; a majority of 23 'yes' votes in the 45-member council are needed for the project to receive a go-ahead. The decision now boils down to undecided fence sitters who have not yet made their opinions known.
Toronto's Current Gambling Option: Woodbine Racetrack
Woodbine Racetrack is currently the closest thing Toronto has to a gambling resort. Sponsored by the OLG and owned by Woodbine Entertainment Group, the Woodbine Racetrack is a horse racing facility in which both thoroughbreds and standardbreds are raced. Food offerings include a buffet, a noodle bar, and a lounge where a la carte items are served.
Once upon a time, in addition to dining and betting, patrons at Woodbine enjoyed spending time on Woodbine's 24-hour gambling floor. The floor featured 3,000 slot machines which include penny slots, dollar slots, and electronic table games like video blackjack and roulette. Unfortunately for Toronto's slot machine fans, OLG's Slots-at-Racetracks program was canceled by Liberal government last year.
Why Woodbine Racetrack Doesn't Deliver Patrons the Total Resort Experience
There is no hotel attached to Woodbine Race Track, and as of 2012 there are no slots for gamblers to enjoy. The only entertainment venue attached to Woodbine is the Mohawk Dinner Theater, which produces small-time plays. A deluxe gambling resort would give citizens of Toronto the opportunity to regain their lost gaming experience. They would also enjoy some of the other luxury features found at big name locations like Caesars Windsor, Fallsview Casino Resort, and Casino Rama, all located in Ontario.
Caesars in Windsor, Ontario provides the total hotel and casino experience for its patrons, including round-the-clock slots, table games, a golf course, pool, and spa. Upcoming entertainment events will showcase top artists like the quartet Il Divo, classic pop band Chicago, hard rocker Alice Cooper, and comedian Jeff Foxworthy. Visitors from the surrounding areas, including Michigan and Ohio, come to Caesars Windsor for this complete-package gambling experience.
Fallsview Casino Resort
Fallsview Resort in Niagara Falls, Ontario offers patrons over 3,000 slots and 100 table games. Guests may stay at the attached hotel which features gorgeous views of Niagara Falls, enjoy musical offerings by artists like Gordon Lightfoot and Sheena Easton, and dine at American, Italian, and Asian-style restaurants and buffets. Fallsview's main competitor is Seneca Niagara Casino and Resort, another full-service gambling facility run by the Seneca Nation in New York.
Like Caesars Windsor and the Fallsview Resort, Casino Rama provides its patrons with a winning combination of slots, table games, fine food, and luxury accommodations. Located in Rama, Ontario, the facility has over 2,500 slot machines and table games ranging from blackjack to craps to Sic Bo. Upcoming concerts will feature stars Billy Idol, Whoopi Goldberg, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and more.
An Uncertain Future
With such grandiose gambling resorts in Toronto's neighboring cities, it seems natural that Toronto would have a similar resort to keep the casino distribution balanced. At this time, however, the future of the proposed new casino in downtown Toronto is still uncertain.