Much has been made of the idea of bringing a casino to Toronto, specifically to where Ontario Place now sits. The general consensus is that the casino is a bad idea. Many would prefer to turn Ontario Place into a park if it must be turned into something else.
At our recent Liberty Village Residents’ Association meeting, City Councillor Mike Layton offered great insight into many of the neighbourhood’s questions and concerns. With regards to the casino at Ontario Place he said that we would need to quadruple the parking at Ontario Place if a casino were to be built. This would be a serious concern for residents because you have to build up, you cant build out or down because you are right at the water line. You would end up with an 8 storey parking structure which would spoil the views of the lake shore.
Layton is strongly opposed to the casino because of the culture of addiction it creates. He says he has approached CAMH to support his appeal against the casino at Ontario Place. CAMH has some of Canada’s best researchers on gambling and addiction. The Martin institute has opposed casinos from the start and Layton is trying to get someone from the Martin Institute to oppose the casino.
Committee members are looking at highlighting the historic sense of Ontario Place. Circulating thoughts include looking at innovation, green space and history of the area. Ontario Place seems to go through a review process every few years. This is not the first time they have tried to re-examine its current use.
Layton argues that the city wouldn’t really make as much money as they think from a casino. It would be approx $3,000,000 per year for the total transfer. This is similar to what the other municipalities such as Niagara Falls receives from their casino. The Province of Ontario is not going to give Toronto a sweetheart deal because of the need to be perceived as fair to all municipalities. Even if they doubled it would only be $6 million per year. Layton claims that $6 million wouldn’t even pay for the traffic police required to manage the traffic for the 5000 car parking required at the Ontario Place.
The question was asked if he CNE could be a possible location for the casino? Layton indicated that the CNE is actually accessible by transit unlike Ontario Place. which makes it somewhat better.
Layton said he feels it costs society in forms of increased crime, in property crime, and in the costs of addiction. The costs of addiction are very real in terms of costs of rehabilitation and policing. There’s also evidence that having a casino in the neighbourhood brings down property values, by up to 10 percent. Layton performed some quick arithmetic and said there are eventually going to be around 10,000 units in liberty village. If you have a property value reduction of 10 percent in these 10,000 units it would cost the city more in reduced property taxes due to loss of property value than the $3 million the city would gain in casino revenue. Also, one of the arguments for a casino is that it brings well-paying jobs, but the reality is that these well paying jobs are soon turned into poverty jobs in the casino as the labour contracts are renegotiated.
Instead, Layton proposes that a much better investment into the city is the funding and the promotion of the arts. Layton stated that the arts drives the economy of the city much more than a casino. He said that every dollar put into the arts gives 17 back into the economy from other levels, from business participation and the arts also drives tourism to the city and serves the hotel and restaurants and retail shopping.
A short discussion was had about the fact that there is now officially a hotel coming into the CNE exhibition grounds. The hotel will be situated just west of the automotive building in the existing parking lot. It is rumoured to be approximately 23 storeys high. This will be a good addition to the amenities of liberty village. It will be primarily be used for the conventions that are happening at the CNE.
What do you think?