City manager’s report should be the fatal bullet for a Toronto casino
Some city councillors have said city manager Joe
Pennachetti’s much-awaited report on the conditions Toronto should place on approving a casino is
full of misleading numbers.
They may be right, but Pennachetti’s suggestions for what
the city should demand from the OLG for hosting a casino amount to a golden
opportunity for anti-casino councillors to vote it down.
Pennachetti, who did not recommend that city council vote
for or against a casino, made a proposal that had to jump off the page for
anyone who understands the OLG’s agenda: That Toronto should get 50 per cent of
the casino’s revenues, which he figures could be as much as $148 million a
He also laid out another 42 requirements that he says should
be met before council says yes, including a “social contract” that would
require a casino operator to pay soft costs such as extra policing, as well as
any additions to infrastructure.
Mayor Rob Ford, who seems confounded by even the most basic
math, used the report as the basis for an open letter urging councillors to
approve a casino, saying it demonstrates a “golden opportunity” for the city to
rake in as much as $150 million a year.
When told by reporters about Ford’s remarks, Premier
Kathleen Wynne said she had “no idea” where his numbers come from.
Wynne has several times stated that a sole funding formula
will be evenly applied to all cities that host a casino.
The OLG has said the city’s cut is more likely to be $50 to
$100 million a year, but knows well that those figures are way too high.
If the OLG thought any city was dumb enough to pay for the
privilege of hosting a casino, it would be demanding $150 million a year from
So it comes down to this: Unless city council rejects
Pennachetti’s proposals and gladly take whatever crumbs the OLG leaves on the
table, a casino is dead on arrival.
If it adopts his recommendations as ironclad conditions for
approval - particularly the 50 per cent revenue split – the casino hustlers
will have no choice but to move on and find another chump city in the GTA, if it can.
Unless the province decided to split revenues 50-50 with
every city that hosts an OLG gambling joint – and fat chance of that – then it
cannot enter into a 50-50 deal with Toronto.
Some of the anti-casino councillors were carrying on as if
Pennachetti’s report was intended to bamboozle them
into voting for a casino.
I look at it the other way. If they don’t want a casino –
and by some estimates, as many as 30 of the 44 council members are now against
it – adopt the city manager’s 50-50 proviso and watch it sink.