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Mayor Ford Says Proposed Casino Will Make Toronto a “Convention Destination”

"Toronto has been presented a golden opportunity, folks."

The Metro Toronto Convention Centre; photo by gorbould from the Torontoist Flickr Pool

The Metro Toronto Convention Centre; photo by gorbould from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Following City staff’s final report on a proposed casino in Toronto—a report which neither endorsed nor rejected the suggestion that we permit one—Mayor Rob Ford is touting the facility’s potential to boost the city’s economy.

“Toronto has been presented a golden opportunity, folks,” Ford said a a press conference this afternoon, “an opportunity that creates jobs, stimulates our economy, and makes Toronto a preferred convention destination.”

In his remarks Ford repeatedly described his support for “a new convention and gaming” facility. His focus on convention space component of the proposed complex, rather than the casino itself—the jewel of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission’s expansion strategy—is a shift for his administration. Many concerned community groups, including a coalition of religious leaders, have condemned the proposed expansion of gambling facilities in Toronto.


City Staff Release Final Report on a Casino in Toronto

When asked why a new convention centre needs a casino to thrive, Ford replied, “you want to have something to do after your meeting or convention. You want to have a place like a casino to go with your spouse or business partners.”

Ford repeated his claim that a casino would earn the municipal government as much as $150 million in revenue—an estimate is based City staff’s hope that the province will give Toronto a much more generous revenue deal than other municipalities with casinos receive, and in defiance of Premier Kathleen Wynne, who earlier today reiterated that there would be no special deals for Toronto. Ford described the estimates in today’s staff report as accurate, but added it “might be off by a few million here or there.”

Ford conceded that he didn’t have any indication from the premier that Toronto might receive a special revenue sharing agreement. “She has to look out for all of Ontario,” Ford said of Wynne. “I have to look out for the people of the city…I’m going to fight for the citizens like I always have.”

A complete transcript of Rob Ford’s remarks—

Toronto has been presented a golden opportunity, folks, an opportunity that creates jobs, stimulates our economy, and makes Toronto a preferred convention destination.

Toronto currently ranks 33rd in North America as a convention destination, but we are the fourth largest city on the continent. We should be in the top 10 at least in conventions. We need a new, bigger, full service convention and exhibition facility to achieve that. A new convention and gaming complex in Toronto would create 10,000 good-paying union jobs for the hard-working people of this city—good quality jobs with an average salary of approximately $55,000. That’s important because Toronto’s unemployment rate has been higher than the rest of Canada for far too long. In addition this project will create between seven to eleven thousand constructions jobs—that’s on top of the 10,000 permanent jobs, folks. That’s great news for Toronto and Ontario. More people working means more people paying income tax to the province and buying goods and services from Toronto businesses.

A new convention and gaming complex will attract 130,000 new business visitors to Toronto each year, and generate $392 million in direct spending, and inject $1.2 billion into Toronto and Ontario’s GDP. That’s good news for Toronto and Ontario: more spending means more taxes collected by the province and a boost to our overall economy.

Soon, council will have to decide on whether or not to permit a new convention and gaming complex in Toronto. I believe we should say yes, absolutely yes, on terms that work for Toronto. This opportunity should be assessed on the facts—on the facts, folks—not on emotion or political rhetoric, like you heard this morning.

The fact is gaming is not new to Toronto. The fact is Toronto needs more good-paying, quality jobs, and this will create 10,000 good-paying union jobs, like I said before. The fact is this is a golden opportunity that may not come up again. A convention and gaming complex in Toronto could generate about $150 million for the city each and every year. This is money that could be used to fund rapid transit and infrastructure while keeping Toronto an affordable place to live, work, and play.

Toronto is not asking for a special deal; we are asking for a fair share. Any city that can attract a $2 billion-plus investment, that will produce well over a billion dollars in annual gaming revenue should get a fair share of that revenue. Any city that shares the risk with the province, as we will, any city that has skin in the game as we do, should receive a fair share.

The fact is OLG has been clear: there will be a new casino, guaranteed folks, in the GTA somewhere. If it’s not in Toronto it will be right on our border or right across the street. The fact is, if they build a casino on our doorstep, which they will, the province won’t benefit as much and Toronto won’t benefit as all.

Based on the facts, I believe council should support 10,000 good-paying union jobs. Council should support $150 million annually for rapid transit infrastructure instead of doing the easy thing, and that’s just to raise taxes. Council should support a $1.2 billion influx into our local economy, which creates more jobs, and council should support a new convention and gaming facility in this great city for businesses and tourists for years to come.

And his full reply to that question from a reporter, asking why the city doesn’t just pursue a convention centre project without attaching a casino to it—

People who go to a convention, you want to have the restaurants, you want to have something to do after your meeting or convention, you want to have a place like a casino to go with your spouse or with your business partners. You don’t just go to a convention and go back to your hotel room. You want to do something else.

We could do it, but that’s not the type of city we want. We want a vibrant city.


  • Glenn Storey

    folks? i thought we were “taxpayers”? and further, shut up robby, you’re a moron.

  • ford pinto

    We’ve already got excellent restaurants, inside excellent hotels, near the convention centre. Unfortunately, that doesn’t solve the entertainment question. Convention-goers could go to a concert, I suppose, or a play. But we want a vibrant city, which means entertainment beyond the ordinary. Let’s face it: we need a ferris wheel.

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      Ferris wheel? That’s a terrible idea. What we need, folks, is an NFL team!

  • OgtheDim

    Umm….don’t we already have a major convention centre at the Ex? Or at the convention centre?

    • rich1299

      Apparently they’re a little too small for some conventions, something I have a hard time believing bu that’s what I’m told. Regardless I do think expanding the Front St convention centre would be ideal, especially if got rid of its hideous Front St facade. Its a great location fairly close to transportation, hotels, restaurants and a ton of entertainment options. The CNE convention centre is a little more isolated though massive. Convention space is good for all sorts of businesses unlike casinos which are only good for themselves.

      • OgtheDim

        Good point but I don’t think the first tier conventions are what is being thought of here at all. Neither the MGM or the convention centre casino plan are for as big a convention space as that of the two current sites.

        The idea that Ford propagates that there is a need for another 2nd tier convention site is patently false.

  • ford pinto

    On a more serious note, if we’re working on the assumption that people who attend conventions won’t leave the casino complex, then why does it matter if it’s downtown? If it’s going to be completely self-contained and mainly for out-of-towners, then why not put it by the airport?

    • malna

      Because it makes sense to have the casino complex accesible to as many people as possible if it is meant to be a successful business?

      Just because the assumption is that the conventions are self contained does not mean that the Casino itself won’t attract its own set of clientele.

  • Matt

    By the way he shrugs off the special revenue sharing agreement (“[Wynne]
    has to look out for all of Ontario”), I’m left with the sense the Ford
    doesn’t know or even care much about the economic benefits of a casino.
    He just seems to like the idea of a casino in general – as a matter of

    • dsmithhfx

      Wynne has found a baseball bat to beat Rob and Timbit with.

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      It runs in the family, if you recall Doug’s insistance that the Portlands need a Ferris wheel, Nordstrom, and/or monorail. Not because it would make any sense, just because.

  • michaelgreason

    Sure, let’s get rid of those boring restaurants on Restaurant Row. Conventioneer’s don’t want that kind of establishment. What they crave is the excitement of yet another Hard Rock Cafe or its cousins. On the other hand, the convention could be held just about any where else and there would be a Hard Rock Cafe there, but no boring Fred’s Not Here.

    I wonder if the fact that many American’s don’t have passports and the border tightening by the US government has made Toronto less attractive has contributed to Toronto’s status as convention destination number 33. Oh no, our Mayor never get’s it wrong. It’s obviously the lack of a casino. All we have to do is ruin our downtown, and presto, the inconvenient border goes away.

  • rich1299

    Well if Ford brought back the VRT we’d have more money for transit expansion than any casino would generate and without the associated public costs of a casino. Lets face $60/year for someone who can afford a car is hardly onerous, it just a little over $1/week. Whenever transit fares increase it costs regular TTC riders more than $1/week extra and private vehicles are already subsidized more than public transit is. Yes it costs more to own and operate a car than to take the TTC but if you can afford it then an extra $60/year isn’t going to break your bank.

    • malna


      This argument wreaks of Red Herring, and does not even properly address its own issues.

      • josher

        Yes the real issue is the $150 million is no where near that much, it’s been pegged from around $20-50 million. And Ford says all that money is dedicated to transit, it’s only going to help build half a KM of subway each year.

  • george

    Do people still go to convention centers? If I want to buy a washer or dryer, I go online, not to a convention….do we even fill the convention centers we have?

    • Jacob

      Conventions are usually industry-specific gatherings for people involved with that industry. You’re thinking of the Exhibition, or what it used to be anyway.

    • Dinah Might

      Well here in Canada we go to convention centres. :-)

  • scottd

    How about one leaves the convention center and visits the already existing restaurants and other attractions instead of taking their business away. A casino is an Anti-business idea.

    • malna

      Source please.

  • Lucy

    Make whole Cenntennial Park a casino city.Transportation will be perfect too. Hyways are all around .This is the best place for a casinos like little Las Vegas.

  • tmunio

    What ‘we’ want is a vibrant city? We already have one, thanks. Robby should get out of his SUV more often.