Hundreds of millions of dollars for subway expansion are at stake should Toronto City Council vote against building a casino, according to a report released by a local taxpayers group.
The report by the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition calls on council to approve a casino for the city which would generate $400-million annually – enough to pay for one new subway station and one kilometre of track every year.
Coalition spokesperson Mathew McGuire said the significant amount of money for new transit could be attained through hosting fees – estimated at $50 to $100-million – plus revenues gained from licensed gaming tables in restaurants and bars and through expanded online gaming.
“You can have $400 million in new revenue every year from a casino to build subways without raising taxes one dime,” said McGuire, president of the coalition.
City council, which will vote on the issue this spring, can ensure maximum revenues by leveraging the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s (OLG) stated preference for Toronto as the location for a new casino, said McGuire.
“OLG wants a casino in Toronto and it will pay hosting fees to represent that,” he said. “Toronto can capitalize on our influence to negotiate for a large fee.”
But while the report, released Jan. 5, extols the benefits of a potential casino, it’s short of data showing how it came up with the $400-million figure.
McGuire called the number a “best-case scenario” that takes into account certain variables such as the size and future location of a casino. He said a team of interns had looked into casino revenues, but was not able to provide specific sources they contacted through the course of their research.
The report concerned Toronto-Danforth Councillor Mary Fragedakis, a casino opponent, who said the estimates presented by the coalition are not in line with the current proposal.
“The formula for the OLG is to give three per cent as a hosting fee,” said Fragedakis. “That’s significantly less than whatever numbers they’re throwing out there.”
She said any potential monetary benefits from a casino would be offset by a rise in crime and other social ills.
“If the crime that is attached in having casinos in cities is anything to go by, we could presumably be spending more on policing,” she said.
McGuire said he would be at a casino consultation meeting at Toronto City Hall on Wednesday, Jan. 9, to speak in support of a casino for Toronto.
“There’s a great source of revenue here if the city wants to take it,” he said. “Quite frankly, it would be foolish to say no to it.”
The city will hold several public consultations for the casino question throughout the month and is also giving residents the opportunity to offer online feedback until Jan. 25.
For more information visit www.toronto.ca