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Toronto casino passes first test, but still faces uphill battle

18 Apr 2013

By Howard Stutz
A committee of Toronto City Council members Wednesday approved a single casino-resort complex to be located in Canada’s largest city, but the proposal faces an uphill battle in front of the full panel.

The development, which has drawn interest from MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment Corp., and Las Vegas Sands Corp., is backed by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation suggested placing a casino in downtown Toronto, but the project needs approval from elected leaders and Toronto residents. The Mayor’s Executive Committee, the first step in the process, approved the casino plan by a 9 to 4 vote.

“There were doubters today and I was confident,” Ford told Canada’s National Post.

Ford dismissed opposition to a new casino as “fear mongering.”

The next step is for the issue to go before the full city council, which is expected to vote when it meets on May 7-8. Media reports have indicated 25 members of the council oppose the casino, which are two votes above a majority.

Ford has publicly vowed to take the issue directly to Toronto residents through a referendum, even if the council rejects the plan.

“There appears to be increasing calls from local residents indicating they don’t want a casino,” Union Gaming Group Managing Director Bill Lerner said in a research note. “It is not certain what level of support the issue would have in a referendum or if the referendum would conflict with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s timeline.”

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