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Another big name enters Toronto casino sweepstakes

Blackjack at the River Rock Casino in Richmond, B.C. June 11, 2009.

JOHN LEHMANN for The Globe and Mail/john lehmann The Globe and Mail

Las Vegas Sands is the latest resort giant to officially signal its interest in bidding for a Toronto casino.

The company does not yet have a specific site or proposal for the casino, but senior vice-president Andy Abboud said Las Vegas Sands has been exploring options "all over the GTA."

"Our main interest is, however, in the downtown core and the waterfront, because we want to be close to existing tourist infrastructures … close to all the best restaurants and theatres," he said Monday.

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Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan has said that a new gambling complex could create a "golden mile" on the city's waterfront, but some local councillors have expressed apprehension. The province has said it won't force a gambling establishment on an unwilling city. Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation chairman Paul Godfrey, however, has been enthusiastic about a Toronto casino, and indicated his first choice would be the city's waterfront.

The "integrated resort" model would fit well with Las Vegas Sands' setup, which features not only a casino but entertainment, convention space and retailers, Mr. Abboud said. This would be the first venture for the U.S.-based company in Canada, Mr. Abboud said, adding the company has registered lobbyists.

Several competitors, including the Toronto buyout firm Onex Corp. and major U.S. companies such as Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International, have expressed interest.

Mayor Rob Ford has previously said he is interested in putting a casino at the city-owned Exhibition Place. because of the potential revenue it would generate. Following a staff report on casinos that is due in October, city council will debate the issue before the province launches an official tender process.

The staff report is expected to address such issues as the number and kind of jobs a casino might create, the revenue potential for the city and any impact on crime rates. It is also expected to identify and grade suitable city-owned sites.

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