05/30/2012 12:17 EDT | Updated 07/30/2012 05:12 EDT

Ford Should Not Gamble His Future at the Casino

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For a cash-strapped province like Ontario, the Ontario Lottery and Gambling Corporation has many practical solutions via gambling. If a new poll is any indication, Torontonians would rather pass.

According to the poll, six out of 10 Torontonians want to have a referendum on what is becoming a potential election issue in 2014. The Startcom Strategic Communications-conducted poll has 18.8 per cent of Torontonians strongly supporting the idea, while 13.3 per cent somewhat support it. Almost 20 per cent said they were neutral, 32.5 per cent strongly oppose building a waterfront casino, and 12.1 per cent indicated they somewhat oppose it.

If this poll is to be believed, what Paul Godfrey of the OLG calls "the most significant transformation of a Crown agency ever seen in Ontario" has very little support to become a reality in Toronto.

To Mayor Rob Ford, an enthusiastic supporter of the idea, this may be a warning as he looks ahead to his uncertain re-election campaign in just over two years. The mayor had offered the waterfront, the Ontario Place, and the yet-to-be-developed Port Lands as a great destination for what is becoming a uniform quick fix scheme for many cities in North America as they face financial pressures. The mayor's executive is studying the proposal before releasing its final findings on October 9th of this year.

The mega casino is expected to produce close to $100 million for Toronto. To a cash-starved city like Toronto, it would seem ideal. Yet, Torontonians seem to have well founded reservations.

For instance, in a report conducted by the National Council of Welfare in Alberta, suicide among gamblers is more worrisome compared to the general public.

The Canada Safety Council found that more than 200 Canadians end up committing suicide as a direct result of gambling.

In a recent Toronto Star interview, a gambling industry expert found that "Toronto is an excellent location for a massive casino and entertainment complex, but it's highly unlikely any such project will proceed if current poll numbers are any indication".

In the same poll, 61.8 per cent of Torontonians also wanted a referendum on it while 24.1 per cent said it should be up to the councillors. 47.4 per cent oppose casinos in their neighborhood while only 10.9 per cent support the idea.

Inside Rob Ford's Toronto, right winger Denzil Minnan-Wong is passionately opposed to the idea while his budget chief, Mike Del Grande, is "not totally sold" to the idea yet. Councillor David Shiner is "sitting on the fence with many Councillors" joining a slew of progressive, and left-wing city councillors.

According to reports, there would be a casino in Mississauga in the near future. But for Torontonians, it matters most that it's as far away as possible from our neighborhoods.