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Casino firm pushes Toronto to make up its mind

MGM Resorts Senior VP of public affairs Alan Feldman unveils their vision for a mixed casino and entertainment complex for the CNE grounds at a Toronto press conference on March 6, 2013.

J.P. Moczulski/The Globe and Mail

The casino company pushing to build a mega-resort at Toronto's Exhibition Place wants city council to decide once and for all this spring if it wants a casino.

MGM president Bill Hornbuckle said his firm already has been "on the ground" in Toronto for more than a year, working on plans to bring an integrated gambling resort to the city and teaming up with Canadian developer Cadillac Fairview. If Toronto city council rejects a casino resort, the partners will move on to other communities and the sooner that happens the better, he said.

"We would like a decision this spring, absolutely," Mr. Hornbuckle said following a speech at the Toronto Region Board of Trade Monday. "Up or down we'd simply just like a decision."

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Council is waiting for a report from the city manager before it considers the casino question. How much Toronto will gain financially will be key to any vote, with several councillors saying they cannot support a casino if it generates less than $100-million annually for Toronto. That number is at the high end of a range given in January by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp, and has come into question now that Premier Kathleen Wynne has told the OLG that Toronto must be treated the same as other cities.

Mr. Hornbuckle said he believes the revenue-sharing formula, which is currently based on the proceeds from slot machines and would generate about $20-million if applied to Toronto, should be expanded to include other factors such as capital investment and job creation.

OLG recently added a site in Vaughan as an alternative, along with Mississauga and Markham, if Toronto says no to a casino.

Mr. Hornbuckle confirmed MGM has had "limited" talks about a Vaughan casino. Its partner, Cadillac Fairview, also owns the site of the Buttonville airport in Markham, which it plans to convert to a mixed-use development.

Plans by OLG to expand casino gambling also came under fire in at Queen's Park Monday after a report in The Globe and Mail showed the value of existing casinos has already fallen.

NDP finance critic Michael Prue demanded a halt to OLG's expansion plans, saying the drop in value of existing sites proved they were in "a shambles."

Ms. Wynne defended the plan, saying municipalities can decide if they want a casino, but did not comment directly on the significant drop in the property values.

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With files from The Canadian Press

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Toronto City Hall bureau chief



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