Paul Godfrey, OLG chairman. (MICHAEL PEAKE/QMI AGENCY FILES)
TORONTO - A new casino in Toronto would be lucky for job seekers, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) says.
OLG Chair Paul Godfrey, who spoke to the Toronto Board of Trade Friday, said such a facility on the waterfront or in downtown Toronto would create 12,000 new jobs and 6,000 construction jobs.
“This would be one of the largest development projects anywhere -- and anytime -- in Canada and would involve a capital expenditure of more than $2 billion,” Godfrey says in a statement. “Once operational, it will directly employ some 12,000 people in well-paying jobs.”
As the clock ticks down with no sign that Toronto council as a whole is interested in a casino, Godfrey made a hard pitch to the business crowd that such a $2 billion “once in a generation” opportunity would draw tourists from around the world and generate profits for the city and businesses.
Godfrey said that while he believes a Toronto casino would be an asset to the city, he’s prepared to look elsewhere in the GTA for a more welcoming host.
Many Toronto councillors have shown little interest in the proposal, although Mayor Rob Ford is a supporter.
Communities near Toronto with gambling facilities are watching with great concern, fearing job losses.
The OLG has shifted its focus from luring Americans to border casinos to developing the domestic gambling market.
A downtown Toronto casino -- with attached entertainment and convention complex -- would generate up to $400 million in tourism, the OLG says.
“The current number of convention visitors to Toronto stands annually at around 360,000. Expanded convention space could lead to that number being tripled,” Godfrey says in his prepared speech. “This could propel Toronto into the top 10 overall in terms of the North American convention business.”
The OLG imagines the casino as a bold architectural building which connects to the community.
“We envision a facility in which less than 10% of the square footage would be dedicated to table games and slots,” Godfrey said. “There would be gaming, but also hospitality, entertainment and retail.”
New Democratic Party MPP Jonah Schein said he doubted the job creation estimate, and said the costs and benefits of a casino deserve a thorough public debate.
“The public has to have a say in this,” Schein said. “We’ve been very clear that we need to have a referendum in this city before casinos come in.
“It feels to me that the government of Ontario is once again gambling and I’m worried the people of Toronto are going to lose. We need to have a debate. We shouldn’t rush this.”