MGM executive makes pitch for Toronto casino
Published Monday, May 14, 2012 7:27PM EDT
One of the men behind the glitzy MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas made a pitch at City Hall Monday, telling councillors that Toronto would be a prime spot for a new waterfront casino.
Alan Feldman, senior vice-president of public affairs at MGM Resorts, spoke before the executive committee as councillors began to consider the possibility of putting a new casino inside Toronto city limits.
Feldman floated the proposal of a 200,000-square-foot MGM gaming facility with 100,000 square feet of food and dining space and up to 2,000 hotel rooms.
It could be a possible $5-billion investment, he said.
"I want top make it clear that we are committed to this conversation in the weeks and months ahead," Feldman told the committee.
Feldman said MGM would prefer to build on city-owned land, with the Port Lands, Exhibition Place and Ontario Place floated as possible locations.
"The energy gets better as you get closer to the central business district and as you get closer to the water," Feldman said.
The proposal to put the casino on public land is not without its detractors, however.
Coun. Mike Layton put a motion in front of the executive committee seeking to maintain the downtown site of Ontario Place as "a public space for families and all Toronto residents to enjoy."
The motion would block the construction of casinos or other gaming facilities there.
There are also concerns that a new downtown casino could affect other Toronto businesses.
The vice-president of Woodbine Entertainment Group spoke against the proposal, saying a new downtown casino would mean the loss of up to 6,000 jobs at the Etobicoke racetrack.
"If the slots were removed from Woodbine you would see the end of Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto," Jane Holmes told the committee.
Coun. Doug Ford also expressed concern for the future of the Woodbine Racetrack.
"We need to save the Woodbine Racetrack, the horses, first and foremost," said Ford.
Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti said he sees a new casino as an important revenue-generating tool for the city.
"If there's enough money in it for us, it means we can probably save some of those programs that many people have been trying to save at budget time," Mammoliti said.
For his part, Mayor Rob Ford has asked the city manager to conduct a report on the casino and report back to council. That report is expected in October.
Other councillors are asking for more than just a report on the issue.
Coun. Adam Vaughan recommends that no casino be permitted in Toronto unless officials conduct a city-wide referendum on the subject, as part of a general election.
The motion would halt the debate over a possible casino until the city's next election in October 2014.
According to Vaughan's motion, a casino can have a negative impact on local businesses, particularly nearby bars and restaurants. Crime, suicide, prostitution and drug related crimes are also significant worries, it suggests.
Toronto held a referendum in 1997 on whether to allow a permanent gaming facility in the city. Seventy-two per cent of Torontonians voted against the casino at that time.
A recent poll suggested that a new referendum would result in almost the same number.
With files from CTV Toronto's Natalie Johnson