2012 Villain: Casino Pressure
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2012 Villain: Casino Pressure

Nominated for: making it hard to make a good decision.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains: the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past 12 months. From December 10 to 19, we’ll unveil the nominees, grouped by category. Vote for your favourites from each batch, every single day! On December 19 and 20 the winners from each category go head-to-head in the final round of voting, and on December 21, we will reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

We like casinos as much as the next guy or gal. You can have a great time dropping a few bucks in Vegas, Niagara Falls, or Rama. Maybe you even catch a bit of Cirque du Soleil or a B-list stand-up comedian as part of your experience. But does Toronto need or want a casino?

Lord knows our mayor does, primarily because of all the money it will apparently put in Toronto’s coffers. Let’s put aside the fact that the entire basis of Rob Ford’s campaign was that city doesn’t need more money, and instead mention that for all the talk of how much revenue a casino will generate, no one actually knows. Some money, sure. But casinos also bring addiction risks, fail to deliver on their promises, and come with opportunity costs (what aren’t we building on the waterfront if we put a casino in there?).

The real issue here is not even whether we should have a casino, but how that decision is being made. Ever since the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation announced its “modernization” plans, the big casino corporations have been circling Toronto like a school of sharks attacking the biggest pool of blood you ever saw.

Whether it was Caesar’s’ already rendered plans, the Fords chatting up the fine folks at MGM, or Oxford’s little blackmail scheme for remaking the admittedly sucky Metro Toronto Convention Centre (“We’ll give you tons and tons of awesome stuff—if you give us a casino!”), it feels like the city’s hand is being forced. The private sector’s sheer, unbridled enthusiasm has to make you wonder how the rest of us stand to gain at all. Heck, even the OLG showed its impatience with Rod Phillips playing the role of Lyle Lanley: “Aw, maybe this idea isn’t for you—it’s more of a Shelbyville idea…,” happily swapping Mississauga and Vaughan for Springield’s arch nemesis. How dare Toronto council so much as balk at the sheer volume of mammon being dumped by the truckload on our doorstep! This is a gift, see?

Everyone’s fighting about where it should go (Ontario Place! Woodbine! The Ex!) and who should run it, forgetting we still haven’t agreed to host the damned thing.

Make no mistake, this is a big decision. Maybe Toronto should have a casino, and maybe it shouldn’t. Montreal does, not too far from downtown. So does Ottawa-Hull. So do plenty of perfectly healthy cities. There are definitely pros, and, even more definitely, cons. But can we at least have some time to study it properly? Doesn’t it feel like the whole debate is happening in the back seat of a speeding car driven by multibillion-dollar corporations?

The City is pausing to have some public consultations, so hopefully Rod Phillips and Caesar will stay quiet in their palaces long enough for the rest of us to give the matter the serious consideration it deserves.

See the other nominees in the Cityscape category:

The Gardiner Expressway

An eyesore that’s creating an increasingly dangerous commute.
  Breaking Condo Glass

Causing injury, closing streets, and sparking lawsuits.
  Donald Trump

Lending his name to an ugly, failing project.

Extreme NIMBYism

Taking the fear of change to irrational heights.
  The Impossible Rental Market

Vacancy rates that make renting hopeless.
  Bike Lane Fiascos

More angry, more congested, and less safe streets.

Cast Your Ballot