The casino debate turns to location, location, location (and Torontonians disagree with MGM’s choice)

The casino debate turns to location, location, location (and Torontonians disagree with MGM’s choice)

(Image: smneale)

Even though Toronto hasn’t agreed to host a casino—and may not even decide until 2014—the rampant speculation as to where it should go continues. The two main contenders: Etobicoke and the downtown waterfront. The Toronto Star reports U.S. giant MGM Resorts International is really only interested in spots close to the lake and the downtown business district, like Ontario Place or  the Port Lands. Though a recent poll touts Woodbine racetrack as a preferred casino location among Torontonians, MGM believes suburban Etobicoke is fine for an old-fashioned (read: lame-o) casino, but not for the multi-billion-dollar entertainment mecca it would like to build.

The Toronto Star spoke to MGM’s Alan Feldman, who made the company’s position quite clear:

If Toronto wants a casino, if that’s the will of city council or the province, they can have a casino—they can add some slot machines and table games to Woodbine and they’d be done. And they don’t need us.

Feldman added that he believes other large-scale developers (including Caesars Entertainment, which has expressed interest, according to the National Post) would have the same supercilious disdain for the Woodbine location:

Of the major players that build large-scale resorts, I don’t think you’d find any difference of opinion.

Woodbine Entertainment Group, which operates the Woodbine racetrack and its 3,000 slot machines, responded to MGM’s diss by insisting its site has plenty of space, and the support of residents. According to the Globe and Mail, however, it does not have the support of the Canadian Gaming Association which thinks Woodbine Entertainment lacks some the experience and muscle necessary to build an entertainment development of this scale. There’s yet one more snag: the company is involved in developing nearby Woodbine Live (kind of), a deal that comes with zoning rules prohibiting a casino.

This puts casino supporters in a bind: Torontonians who want a casino seem to want it far from downtown, but the players that can afford to sink $2 billion to $6 billion into the city don’t quite care for Rexdale.

Updated: This story has been changed from previous version that suggested the Canadian Gaming Association had explicitly expressed opposition to a casino bid by the Woodbine Entertainment Group.

• Woodbine location favoured for Toronto ‘entertainment destination’ [Globe and Mail]
• Gambling giants MGM, Caesars eye Toronto [National Post]
• Downtown waterfront or bust: Big casino resort won’t work at Woodbine, MGM says [Toronto Star]