High Rollers: we break down five different billion-dollar plans for a casino in downtown Toronto

High Rollers: we break down five different billion-dollar plans for a casino in downtown Toronto

City councillors could vote on whether to allow a downtown casino as soon as next month, and they, along with the rest of Toronto, remain bitterly divided over whether it would be a money-generating pleasure palace or a traffic-generating crime magnet. In the midst of the ongoing debate, high-profile companies like MGM and Wynn have released flashy plans in hopes that big ideas and pretty renderings will help sway the naysayers. Below, we break down each company’s promises, from free CNE passes to Celine Dion concerts.

The company: MGM Resorts International and Canadian partner Cadillac Fairview
The plan: An “integrated resort” (read: massive complex) at Exhibition Place that includes a 1,200-room hotel, a mall half the size of the Eaton Centre, a permanent home for Cirque du Soleil, 10 restaurants, an underground parking lot with 12,000 spaces and, of course, a 250,000-square-foot casino. The new buildings would push the CNE across Lake Shore Boulevard to the northern part of Ontario Place. The company also said it would expand the Direct Energy Centre and Molson Amphitheatre, as well as transit service to the area (as long as they can work with GO Transit and the TTC)
The cost: $3–$4 billion
The best perk: Free CNE for all! A decade of cash payouts to the fair would allow it to stop charging admission
How serious are they? Very. The company has registered more than a dozen lobbyists (including two Metrolinx officials), held private briefings for councillors and the mayor and has a website up and running

The company: Wynn Resorts Development, the luxury developer responsible for the Mirage, Treasure Island and Bellagio in Las Vegas
The plan: A resort with a five-star spa, fine dining and casual restaurants, a hotel with views of the Toronto skyline and a convention centre. A Wynn executive argued the developer’s proposal contrasts with the “outdated big-box slots model” and said the company would work with the city to find an appropriate location.
The cost: Not yet released
The best perk: A complex more chic than trashy (at least, in theory)
How serious are they? The plan is still in its early stages, but rumours of Wynn’s interest have been swirling for months

The company: Oxford Properties Group
The plan: A total revamp of the Oxford-owned Metro Toronto Convention Centre that expands the convention space and adds two office/residential towers, a hotel, a three-level shopping centre and 4,000 new underground parking stalls. The gambling floor would take up about 10 per cent of the total space
The cost: $3 billion
The best perk: A 5.5-acre urban park over the railway tracks, though there are questions about whether that’s feasible
How serious are they? Serious enough to hire the architects behind Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City Development and London’s Canary Wharf Underground Station. The property firm has also already released two waves of renderings

The company: Caesars Entertainment with U.S. firm Rock Gaming
The plan: Another plan for the Convention Centre, this one includes an arcade along Front Street, a park, luxury retail, restaurants, a year-round amphitheatre and two hotel towers. The company said it’s open to adapting the plan for other sites
The cost: Around $2 billion
The best perk: Caesars hinted it might be able to draw performers like Celine Dion, Elton John, Shania Twain or Rod Stewart
How serious are they? Caesars was one of the first to express interest in a Toronto casino and CEO Gary Loveman schlepped to the city to extol the benefits. However, the plans aren’t as specific as MGM’s and Oxford’s

The company: Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which has properties in Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore
The plan: Yet another proposal for Front and Simcoe, this version includes tripling the size of the existing convention centre and a hotel tower with up to 2,000 rooms and new space for restaurants, entertainment and retail stores. The casino would comprise about five per cent of the space
The cost: $2 billion
The best perk: The company isn’t shy about eye-catching architecture—just look at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore
How serious are they? The plans lack specifics, but Sands’ lobbyist count is second only to MGM’s. Plus, billionaire CEO (and Tea Party supporter) Sheldon Adelson met with Rob Ford in person last summer

(Images: Cirque du Soleil, Benson Kua; Celine Dion, Facebook; Elton John, Richard Mushet; casino chips, Sam DeLong; rendering, MGM)