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Councillor, OLG chair bicker over placement of possible Toronto casino

The president of the CNE board says the site is too small for the fair and a casino.

J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

Toronto's first casino public consultation session is set for Wednesday – but that didn't stop city councillor Adam Vaughan and Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation chair Paul Godfrey from publicly debating the project a day early.

Mr. Godfrey, speaking at a downtown event Tuesday, said many residents are opposed to casinos in their neighbourhoods. He added that he wouldn't want a casino in his neighbourhood because it is residential.

Mr. Vaughan seized on that remark and sent a letter to Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan. In the letter, Mr. Vaughan said downtown Toronto is home to hundreds of thousands of people. If residential neighbourhoods are not appropriate for casinos, he reasoned, a casino should not be built downtown.

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"These communities deserve not only to be recognized by your government and its appointees, but their rights and quality of life deserve the same consideration as Mr. Godfrey's neighbours and friends," Mr. Vaughan wrote.

When asked about Mr. Vaughan's letter Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Godfrey reiterated his point.

"I said certainly I wouldn't want one in my neighbourhood either. We're not sticking it in a residential zone," he said.

He called his and Mr. Vaughan's definitions of neighbourhoods "exactly different."

"I live in a residential neighbourhood. It has what I would describe as either single-family homes or townhouses or places where people live. But I wouldn't describe all of downtown as a neighbourhood. Downtown has stores and offices and places of entertainment and restaurants," he said, adding that's why there are various zoning classifications.

Mr. Godfrey described the casino as a tourism catalyst and said it will only be built in a community that's appropriate.

"The city's got to vote yes or no and then they've got to decide if the site we pick is appropriate. And if they don't, all we have to do is go to Markham, Vaughan, or Mississauga or something else. There will be one in the GTA. If it's not in downtown Toronto, it will be somewhere else," he said.

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A spokesman for Mr. Duncan said the comments were Mr. Godfrey's and the finance minister wouldn't be offering a response.

Wednesday's consultation session will be held at the rotunda at Toronto City Hall. Four more public sessions are planned, with consultations set to close Jan. 25.

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