NEWS

Casino meeting at city hall draws 200 speakers

04/15/2013 08:23 EDT | Updated 06/15/2013 05:12 EDT
More than 200 people signed up to appear before Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's executive committee on Monday to speak about the controversial issue of whether a Las Vegas-style casino would be a win or loss for the city.

The committee is discussing a report from the city manager that examines the implications of adding a casino and convention centre to downtown Toronto as part of the province's plan to expand legalized gambling.

Speakers are being limited to three minutes and committee members have only one minute for questions.

By noon, about 50 people had made their presentations with most speaking against the casino.

One was Dori Segal, whose company First Capital Realty is working on developments in the Liberty Village area.

"A casino at Exhibition Place will be a disaster," said Segal. "A mistake we will have to live with for generations to come. Don't give away our waterfront. Once it's gone, it's gone forever."

"Casinos are predators. They prey on addicted gamblers," said Elisabeth Block, a deputant with the NDP.

Others, including gaming industry representatives, said the casino will bring much-needed jobs and tourists to the city.

"A casino can be the catalyst for a new and larger convention centre, millions of tourists, and will create thousands of jobs," said Jan Jones of Caesars Entertainment, one of the companies that has submitted a bid to build a complex.

Jim Bannon, a contractor at Woodbine Racetrack, told the committee he supported expanding gaming at the Etobicoke-based track and that its success would be given.

"Woodbine has a proven track record and would be a terrific host and operator if that opportunity presented itself," said Bannon, who was concerned that the racing community was at stake if a casino was built elsewhere in the city.

"A successful partnership as we've had in the past is significant to saving jobs, and it means funds for you, which is a great partnership," he said.

A key issue remains how much of the casino profits would flow into the city’s coffers.

- City report calls for restrictions on casino

Released last week, the city manager’s report calls for a 50-50 split of casino profits with the province, with the city taking in no less than $100 million annually. The province has yet to agree to that formula, which would give Toronto a far richer share of the profits than host municipalities in other Ontario communities.

The speakers list at Monday's meeting will be cut off at 8 p.m. Anybody who has not had a chance to speak would be asked to make a written submission.

Mammoliti returns

Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti made his return to city hall today after undergoing brain surgery earlier this month.

"I can only stay about five minutes, but you know why I'm here," said Mammoliti, his voice sounding a bit frail. "I'm hoping that this table will do a great thing today."

Mammoliti thanked Toronto residents, city councillors and staff for their support and even joked that he was being driven around until he'd made a full recovery.

Following the remarks, several people lined up to embrace Mammoliti, including Mayor Ford who offered a few words to his colleague.

MORE:cbcNews