What is being proposed for downtown Toronto is not simply a casino within four walls; it’s a gaming entertainment centre that would contain a number of elements including hotel, convention, retail, food and beverage, clubs and entertainment, and recreation. In fact, the gaming component would form about 10 per cent of the public area. This would be a $2 billion-plus capital investment financed entirely without public funds that would be the largest private commercial development in Canada, creating up to 12,000 permanent, good paying jobs with an average annual wage of more than $50,000; as well as 6,000 construction jobs.
Recent examinations of relevant peer-reviewed research conducted by Dr. Bo Bernhard, Executive Director of the International Gaming Institute of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, shows that an integrated resort developed in the Greater Toronto Area is “best practice” in terms of maximizing economic benefits that would:
• Have either no effect or a positive effect on nearby hospitality and tourism facilities;
• Foster growth of surrounding industries; • Have no significant effect on crime rates; and • Create meaningful increases in economic growth and employment.
Complaints that gaming properties are enclosed and generate a demand for parking are as easily applied to any other entertainment venue, such as the Air Canada Centre, Rogers Centre, Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, and Princess of Wales Theatre—all of which are designed to keep their patrons inside and occupied with the entertainment on offer. I have to ask why only gaming is criticized for actually attracting patrons while other forms of entertainment are okay with doing exactly the same thing?
With respect to social costs, study after study has determined that crime is not an issue. One need only ask Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair about Woodbine Entertainment and understand that rates of problem gambling over the past 20 years have stabilized across Canada at about one per cent of the general population, regardless of the supply of legal forms of gambling, including casinos.
What we’re talking about is a single downtown gaming entertainment centre within an urban area with a population of 2.6 million people in Toronto proper and 5.6 million in the GTA. Come on Toronto, isn’t it about time you got over that River City complex? And remember: The sky wasn’t falling, it was just an acorn.
By Bill Rutsey, President and CEO of Canadian Gaming Association