Caesars Entertainment Corp. – the latest firm to produce pictures of their vision for a Toronto casino – says it commissioned the artist's renderings at the request of the province's lottery corporation.
Jan Jones, the former mayor of Las Vegas who speaks for Caesars, said the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. asked them to release the images so that people could envision how a gaming facility would fit into the city. "The debate is ongoing around Toronto as a location, what this might mean to the city," she said. "People want to have a sense of what does it look like, where it might go, although ultimately that is the city's decision."
In a letter issued in early October by the provincial agency, OLG encouraged firms interested in a Toronto location to "now move forward with preparing their designs."
A list of "suggested guidelines" was provided. Among them, integrating the facility with existing infrastructure and the inclusion of of green space, non-gaming amenities and sustainability features. The guidelines also advise that designs should have "due respect for proximity to residential and related areas."
In the case of Caesars, the conceptual renderings released Friday show a towering glass entrance to a multi-level gaming facility on Front Street, at the western end of a new hotel and commercial complex on the current site of the Metro Convention Centre.
Oxford Properties Group, owners of the northern portion of convention centre, last month unveiled plans to demolish the Front Street facility as well as an adjoining hotel and two nearby office buildings. It plans to revamp the property with a mixed-use development that includes a new hotel and casino, as well as two new skyscrapers that would be among the tallest in Canada.
Ms. Jones said the convention centre site is Caesar's first choice because of its proximity to public transit and the entertainment district. The site is the best for the city, she said, because it adds to an existing tourist destination, and would not compete with established businesses by drawing people to a separate location.
While the firm's plans are geared to the convention centre location, Ms. Jones said they could be used for other downtown locations. The firm also plans to release conceptual images for a casino complex at Exhibition Place, another possible site.
Oxford executive vice-president Michael Kitt said the company is in "active discussions" with number of casino operators about plans for the site, including Caesars. "We are open to any operator who is interested in our site," he said. "We are not aligned with anyone."
Mr. Kitt said Caesars' proposal is compatible with Oxford's plans for the site.
Caesars' partner in the project, Rock Gaming LLC, is a U.S. company that operates the Horseshoe Casinos in Cincinnati and Cleveland. Caesars and Rock also are developing a gambling complex in downtown Baltimore. One of their partners in that project is the Stronach Group, a private consortium chaired by Canadian business titan and horse-racing enthusiast Frank Stronach.
The casino plans come as Mayor Rob Ford's executive committee prepares to consider on Monday a staff report that predicts an economic windfall if Toronto welcomes a casino, especially one located on city-owned land. The report from city manager Joe Pennachetti's office estimates Toronto could collect as much as $195-million per year – on top of a one-time sale or lease of city-owned land – from an integrated resort casino near the waterfront. Mr. Ford has said he favours a casino on a city-owned site such as Exhibition Place because of the extra money Toronto would collect as landlord.
The city manager is asking for permission to conduct public consultations on a casino over the next couple of months. Council would not be asked to vote on a casino or a site until February or March of next year at the earliest, and the outcome of that vote is far from certain. Several councillors have said they are opposed to a casino under any circumstances, including some members of the mayor's executive committee.
City councillor Adam Vaughan who represents the ward where the convention centre is located characterized Caesars' plans as "more pretty pictures to mask bad numbers." Mr. Vaughan said the city's revenue projections are unrealistic, overestimating the financial benefits Toronto would gain from a casino.
The province has made it clear it would like a new casino in the Toronto area, but has made it clear it will not force one on an unwilling community.