The great casino debate is heating up online, where No Casino Toronto’s grassroots lobbying efforts face competition from a slick new MGM Resorts website
that says its facility would showcase “the soul of Toronto.”
Las Vegas-based MGM and Toronto-based developer Cadillac Fairview promise thousands of jobs, $2 billion to $4 billion in investment and a stampede of tourists, on the website expected to be officially announced Wednesday along with an official Facebook page.
They say an integrated casino resort at Exhibition Place would include a luxury hotel, convention facilities, restaurants, nightlife, “best-in-class” shopping — and gambling in less than 10 per cent of the resort.
The site includes a tab to directly “share your thoughts with your local city councillor.”
Claims on the website include:
“Our hope is that Torontonians see the exciting possibilities that exist if we revitalize Exhibition Place and optimize its true potential as a year-round resort and entertainment destination.”
A Toronto Integrated Resort would be capable of generating between 7,000 and 9,000 full-time permanent union and non-union jobs. Direct and spinoff jobs would generate $350-$500 million in new earnings for Toronto residents.
MGM anticipates its non-executive Toronto casino employees would earn more than $60,000 per year in salaries, wages, benefits and tips.
Positions may include: graphic designers, housekeepers, architects, software engineers, sommeliers, hairstylists, auditors, financial analysts, gymnasts, electricians, carpenters, surveillance experts and seamstresses.
A new integrated resort will be able to attract at least 1 million new visitors a year from outside Ontario who will spend between $500 million and $1 billion on non-gaming activities.
“Through the design, services, and spectacles offered, guests at the Integrated Resort will experience the ‘soul of Toronto.’”
The website does not mention that Brian Ashton, president of the board that runs the Ex, is lobbying city councillors to reject the proposal, out of fear a casino-resort would take up too much room and kill the annual fair.
And while it acknowledges that gambling addiction is a “public health issue” and touts MGM efforts to curb the problem, the site does not note the city’s board of health has said the public health risks outweigh potential benefits.
Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.’s modernization plan includes one new privately built and operated casino in the GTA. Other companies eager to build in Toronto include Caesars Entertainment and Las Vegas Sands, but OLG says it won’t force a casino on communities that don’t want one.
In the other social media corner is No Casino Toronto, which has used Facebook and Twitter to grow from three concerned women to a city-wide campaign against a downtown casino
Last month, the group boasted to the Star: “We literally own the conversation around Toronto casinos on social media,” based on a dramatic increase in visits to its Facebook page
“Likes” for the page were growing by 1,000 per week, up from 80 per week in December. The group reported a similar jump in use of its survey that uses respondents’ postal codes to automatically email the results to their city councillor.
Mayor Rob Ford
’s executive is expected to vote on the casino question next month, but city council will have the final say, probably in April.