On Friday, October 12, the Oxford Properties Group announced its proposed vision for a $3-billion expansion right along downtown Toronto's Front Street. The proposal includes the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, and, in addition to a full-blown casino, features office, retail, hotel and residential elements.
An Oxford press release regarding the proposal explains that the undertaking would also ultimately feature a 5.5-acre 'urban park' created over the existing rail lines. The proposal also touts the fact that the expansion would be integrated right into the existing transportation infrastructure, which is also located right alongside one of the most congested urban areas on the continent.
The Oxford announcement states that the casino element of the expansion would be 'funded, built and operated by the casino operator selected by the province.' The release also characterizes the ultra-urban Front Street site for the proposed expansion as, "within a vibrant local residential neighbourhood in the centre of Toronto's theatre and entertainment districts."
The stakes over expanded casino gaming in the province of Ontario could not be any higher than what they currently are, nor could the appetite of major casino interests from the United States, which have, almost literally, been chomping at the bit for a piece of Toronto's lucrative gaming pie. There has been absolutely no secrecy about the massive casino lobby which has set up shop in Ontario's capital. This has all been going on as the minority Ontario Liberal Government, via the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., is in the midst of putting in upwards of 60,000 Ontarians out of work by quizzically pulling the mutually-beneficial and highly lucrative slots-at-racetracks program.
The province's major opposition parties --- the New Democratic Party and the Progressive Conservatives --- have spoken out, calling for referendums to become mandatory before casino expansion is given the green light in municipalities. Motions and bills have been presented, although, at this point, it is all talk.
Another who has been talking quite a bit against urban casino expansion in the heart of downtown Toronto is Councillor Adam Vaughan, who, as a report by The Globe and Mail explains, has said that any expansion of Oxford's nature would kill independent business, and that the action could be equated to "a bomb going off in the downtown core.”
The Ontario Liberal Party --- via the OLG, which it governs --- has made it quite clear that it does not support the idea of municipalities conducting referendums to truly find out if residents actually want full-blown casino expansion in their own backyards.
(With files from The Globe and Mail)