TORONTO - All Ontario municipalities that choose to host new casinos will be treated in the same way when it comes to sharing revenues, the governing Liberals vowed Wednesday while denying any special deals had been struck with the province's largest city.
Premier Kathleen Wynne said she called in the chair and CEO of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation to make it clear she doesn't want to see any special arrangements to entice Toronto to accept a new casino.
"I gave clear instruction to OLG that the formula for hosting fees has to be the same for all municipalities and that there will be no special deals," Wynne said in the legislature after being asked whether her hometown was offered a "secret deal."
"OLG has agreed to go back and review the formula based on those principles," she said. "The principles of equal treatment and fairness will govern the formula going forward."
There has been a lot of criticism of OLG reportedly promising Toronto a special agreement that was far more lucrative than what's being offered to other cities who want a casino.
Though he said he doesn't object to a review of the revenue-sharing formula, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford maintained Wednesday the city deserves a bigger piece of the pie.
"We're huge, we're the biggest city, I think we should," he told reporters.
Both the Liberals and the OLG denied there was any special deal for Toronto, saying only that discussions were underway and that nothing was set in stone.
Finance Minister Charles Sousa noted that the casino proposed for Toronto is "much grander in scope than it is in other parts of the province," suggesting that may explain why it would generate more money for the city.
But the opposition parties argued Wynne was only speaking up because the scheme had been uncovered.
"There was a special deal here and I think the premier is back-tracking now and trying to get away from this position as quickly as possible," said Monte McNaughton, the Tories' economic development critic.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath accused the premier of "trying to have it both ways."
"She's happy to let things move along until she gets a little bit of heat, then she pretends that she's not involved at all," Horwath said.
OLG chairman Paul Godfrey said he wasn't hauled on the carpet by Wynne but added the corporation will be rewriting the formula to meet the premier's wishes that all cities and towns be treated exactly the same by the corporation.
He wouldn't say whether that would mean sweetening the deal for other municipalities or watering down the offer made to Toronto.
"I can't tell you right now on the spot here which way we're leaning because this is all new news to us," he said.
"We understand that there's a sense of fairness all the way through this province that the premier wants to achieve and we're prepared to comply with that and come up with a formula."
The lottery corporation, which plans to build 29 casinos in the province, has said it wants a downtown or waterfront site for a new Toronto casino, but some city councillors are opposed to having one.
The provincial government wants a motion approved by council stating the city would be a willing host, and has said it will not force any community to take a casino if it doesn't want one.
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