|Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti speaks with the media in the city council chambers at Toronto City Hall on Wednesday. The Toronto and East York Community Council meeting debated the zoning status of casinos in the downtown core. (Ernest Doroszuk/QMi Agency)
TORONTO - The debate over a Toronto casino anted up Wednesday.
Councillors on the Toronto and East York Community Council got a largely anti-casino earful Wednesday night while Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti dismissed the whole meeting as “illegal.”
Around 44 residents, politicians and union leaders registered to speak to the community council last night on the zoning status of casinos in Toronto and East York District.
One of those speakers, resident Margaret van Dijk, worried a casino would lead to a rise in crime.
“I hope that anyone living in Toronto who suffers a casino-related crime will sue the city and the (Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation) royally for damages,” van Dijk told councillors.
Charles Pimentel, of the Carpenters Union, spoke in favour of the developing a resort and casino in Toronto.
“The proposed development would not only be beneficial to the growth and development of Ontario but it would also be beneficial to the thousands of Ontario residents who would benefit from the creation of jobs that will continue for many years to come,” he said.
Mammoliti called the whole meeting “the City Hall show.”
“The only thing missing are the cancan girls,” he said.
He argued a casino was a city-wide issue not one for an individual community council to tackle.
“What some councillors are trying to do here is set the stage, a negative stage perhaps, to tell people that they don’t want it in their backyard,” he said.
Councillor Paula Fletcher stressed there was “nothing untoward or illegal” about the meeting.
“We are hearing from our staff about zoning matters vis-a-vis a casino which is actually under the purview of a community council,” Fletcher said.
The meeting came two hours after the Canadian Gaming Association held a press conference launching torontocasinofacts.ca.
Association CEO Bill Rutsey said the website was designed to “cut through the rhetoric” around a casino.
“The question currently under consideration isn’t should casino gambling be allowed in Toronto. That’s already been asked and answered in the affirmative,” Rutsey said. “It is whether or not a destination resort of which about 10% will be the casino component should be located and developed in the downtown core.”
Rutsey claimed a Toronto casino would create 6,000 construction jobs, support up to 12,000 “good-paying permanent jobs” and attract tourism from around the globe.
Earlier in the day, Mayor Rob Ford said he’s still “open to the idea” of a casino.
“If people can come and give us a good plan and it creates good paying jobs as an entertainment complex, I’ll definitely consider it,” he said.
As for the location of the casino, Ford said that’s up in the air.“It’s hard to say, right now, Exhibition, Port Lands, Woodbine — wherever we can get the most money,” he said.