A Bad Deal With Fake Numbers And Pretty Pictures*

Look. Personally, I’ve got nothing against casinos. I am not a betting man because, among other reasons, there are more interesting vices to feed. Casinos can be fun to visit from time to time especially if there’s an opportunity to see exotic animals maul their handlers. Hey. If you could guarantee me that I just might see a white tiger take hold of Celine Dion by the head, I’d become a regular patron.

Besides, the genie’s out of the bottle. Whatever you might think of governments living off the avails of gambling, we’re all in, dependant on the revenue it generates. Like we are with alcohol and tobacco products. And like those, there’s going to be negative social fallout but the upsides are too tempting to resist.

New casinos are coming. The provincial government and Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation have told us so. It’s just a question of where.

So let’s have a robust debate about the pros and cons of building a casino (or two) in Toronto.

That would mean dealing with actual numbers, estimates and information.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be happening as we begin the consultation process.

The city’s casino staff report is rife with best case scenario formulations, based on hypothetical deals the city would swing with the province and OLG for heightened cuts of percentages and hosting fees. The bottom line — how much money would the city of Toronto receive hosting a casino — is awfully muddy. $168 million? $18 million? It depends. (See Hamutal Dotan’s The Great Casino Myth yesterday at Torontoist).

Depends. Depends. Depends.

On the type of casino that is built. Stand alone or a resort like complex. Where the casino is built. Etobicoke. Exhibition Place. The Port Lands.

Depends. Depends. Depends.

What the proposed consultation process seems to be is, here’s some possible numbers based on some possible locations and designs, give us a yes or no answer now. If you don’t agree to play along with us, there are 36 other municipalities waiting in the wings to pounce on this once in a lifetime opportunity. That’s hardly a robust debate. It’s deal making with a gun to your head. Why would we play along with that?

As a number of deputants pointed out yesterday at the Executive Committee meeting, this casino push is a scramble by Queen’s Park to contend with their deficit and debt. A downtown Toronto casino makes a whole lot of sense to them. There’s gold in that thar waterfront. For the province.

But for Toronto?

Depends. Depends. Depends.

On a whole lot of factors that will not be decided upon before the residents of Toronto are asked to form and make a decision. There’s no development plan to look at. No economic impact study. Right now, just numbers Ernst and Young accumulated from the OLG, developers and casino operators. None of whom should considered objective sources on this debate.

If we’re going to get a casino, fine. But on this city’s terms. Despite the mayor and his supporters’ claims that Toronto is in desperate financial straits (and thereby weakening our bargaining position), the one thing we should know for certain is that, as it stands now, pro-casino proponents need us more than we need them.

* lifted directly from Councillor Adam Vaughan’s press scrum

unhoodwinkedly submitted by Cityslikr