A group of developers is asking the city not to gamble on placing a casino in the downtown core.

In an open letter to city manager Joe Pennachetti, the heads of RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust, Allied Properties Real Estate Investment Trust and Diamond Corp argue that a massive downtown casino complex could jeopardize the “success of our downtown.”

“We are aware that there are studies suggesting a casino will bring benefits to the city, but understand that such benefits will accrue regardless of the location,” the letter states. “In our view, the risk of the potential negative impacts from developing a mega casino in the downtown outweighs the potential benefits.”

The City of Toronto is expected to vote this spring on whether it will allow a casino to set up shop in the city.

So far a number of potential locations have been floated, including Exhibition Place, the Port Lands and Woodbine Racetrack.

One joint proposal from MGM Resorts International and Cadillac Fairview Corporation Ltd. would see a massive resort and gaming complex with a permanent venue for Montreal’s Cirque du Soleil constructed on city-owned land at Exhibition Place. Another proposal from Oxford Properties Group would see a revitalized convention centre, condominium development and an integrated casino and hotel complex built at the current site of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

“We have been told of elaborate plans for theatres and restaurants and so on and that’s quite wonderful but the effect it might have on the existing attractions and existing restaurants in the neighbourhoods is something we have to bear in mind,” Coun. John Parker told CP24 Wednesday morning after reading the open letter. “An attraction of this type would want to draw customers in and keep them.”

Potential casino a contentious topic

The idea of building a casino in Toronto has generated considerable debate.

Mayor Rob Ford has been a major backer of the idea, saying that the facility could generate millions of dollars in revenue for the city while creating thousands of jobs.

Meanwhile, a faction of city councillors has expressed concern with the social cost that would be paid through an increase in problem gaming.

The open letter from Rio Can, Allied Properties and Diamond Corp doesn’t take a stance on whether a casino is a good idea, it just says a downtown casino isn’t worth the gamble.

“Through the leadership of city councils, now and in the past, a framework has been established in Toronto that has attracted substantial investment in the downtown,” the letter states. “We firmly believed that this investment will continue without the necessity of taking a risk on this issue and potentially jeopardizing the success of our downtown.”

Speaking with CP24 on Wednesday morning, new budget chief Coun. Frank Di Giorgio said he won’t let opposition from developers or any single group determine his vote on the matter.

“As we all know there are two types of politicians; politicians that will make a decision based on the heat that they feel and politicians that will make a decision based on the light that they see,” he said. “In my view the positive benefits outweigh the negative costs, but there are no definitive reports out there. We will examine everything and make a decision.”

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