The Toronto casino debate: The devil is in the details

Matt Coutts
Daily Brew

You can either have an eco-friendly car that runs entirely on electricity and solar power or a gas-guzzling SUV that chokes goslings dead with every gear shift. We'll tell you which you chose after you decide.

Sure, it is a stilted comparison. But Toronto residents will soon face a similar decision over whether or not to support a downtown casino.

The Globe and Mail reports the city's executive committee will hold public consultations on the divisive gaming parlour. Surveys and town hall meetings will be held to gauge whether the general public approves of allowing the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG) to set up shop inside city limits.

The good news is that such a casino could profit the city by $168 million a year. The bad news is that number is unprecedented and the actual benefit could be more like $18 million.

That translates to either a pretty decent payday or a pretty nice amount to find under the couch cushions. Comparatively.

Without more detail, feedback from the public will be, pardon the pun, a bit of a crap shoot. Like buying a car before you know whether it runs on rainbows or tar sands.

There will be a section of the public that will oppose a downtown casino regardless of its upside, such is their right. And there will be a section of the public that will approve a casino regardless of the social cost, as it their right.

And then, there will be those in the middle who will weigh the pros and cons, the benefits and concerns, before they are comfortable making their decision. Heaven forbid.

To these radicals, details will be the key. How much will the city financially benefit from such a decision? That's kind of a big question.

The breakdown presented to the executive committee on Monday, according to the Globe, suggested the unprecedented 50-50 split (the one that could bring the city $168 million annually) was a possibility, considering how badly the OLG wants a casino in downtown Toronto.

An OLG representative said such talk was "premature." There's an adage about counting chickens before they hatch that could apply here.

Still, revenue from a downtown casino could go a long way to addressing the city's money problems. An annual payday of $168 million could go toward improving public transit or fixing the Gardiner Expressway.

On the other hand, $18 million should just about cover the cost of new equipment for the Don Bosco Eagles.

In the Toronto casino debate, it is all about how much information we have and how soon we can have it.

Fingers crossed we get more information before people are asked which car to buy.