04/08/2013 10:59 EDT | Updated 06/08/2013 05:12 EDT

Toronto Casino: City Report Calls On Ontario To Split Revenues Equally


TORONTO - The fate of a new casino and convention centre proposed for Toronto could hinge on whether the province is willing to split the revenues generated by the facility equally with the city.

A new report by municipal staff examines the impact the controversial complex would have on downtown Toronto as well as nearby municipalities and lays out conditions that could make or break the deal.

Among the terms is a revenue-sharing deal that would see half the revenues go to the city — a benefit that far exceeds the usual arrangement.

"This would reflect the magnitude of the potential development and operation and the joint risk and contribution of each partnering government given the size and scope of the Ontario and Toronto economies," city manager Joe Pennachetti said Monday in announcing the findings.

But it's unclear whether the province will be on board since Premier Kathleen Wynne has said she doesn't want Toronto to receive special treatment for hosting a casino.

The Ontario Lottery Gaming Corp. has said it wants to build a new facility in the Toronto area, preferably in the city's core, but council must agree to it first.

The report is only meant to inform council's decision when the matter comes to a vote, which is expected later this spring, Pennachetti said.

"It does not, I repeat, it does not provide a definitive recommendation on whether or not to proceed with establishing a new casino," he said.

Mayor Rob Ford has already come out firmly in favour of the project, calling it "a huge opportunity" in an open letter issued this weekend before the report was made public.

In the letter, the mayor said the facility could pour up to $150 million a year into the city's coffers from revenue-sharing alone — a figure that also appears in the report.

The suggestion that Canada's largest city could get a better deal than other municipalities set off a firestorm last month, prompting Wynne to insist all municipalities abide by the same funding formula.

She repeated her position in the legislature Monday when asked about the mayor's letter.

"I have no idea where the numbers (cited by Ford) come from," she said.

"I have no knowledge of those numbers."

The OLG has vowed to review its revenue-sharing formula, and has said it is now considering Vaughan as well as Toronto, Mississauga and Markham-Richmond Hill for a southern Ontario gambling facility.

The report paints a downtown complex as an economic engine that, once complete, would create more than 10,000 ongoing full-time jobs and add $935 million to the city's annual gross domestic product.

Most of the benefits would stem from the convention centre rather than the gambling component, the report suggests.

"A facility that can attract some of the largest conferences, conventions and trade shows in North America would deliver a significant increase in visitors to the city and ongoing economic and city building benefits," it reads.

Toronto Coun. Adam Vaughan, who often butts head with the mayor, said there's no reason the city can't build a convention centre without the casino.

"There's no need for a casino," he said.

Vaughan also questioned the financial calculations made in the report, calling them "a fantasy."

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version misspelled Joe Pennachetti's name.

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