Toronto Mayor Rob Ford declares downtown casino debate dead-ish

Mayor Rob Ford told reporters Wednesday that he remains very optimistic that he can win a casino vote at an upcoming special council meeting.

A plan to build a casino in downtown Toronto appears to be dead and buried, or perhaps just delayed, after the city’s mayor accused the Ontario government of refusing to offer a fair deal.

A brusque and indignant Mayor Rob Ford declared a debate to build a casino in downtown Toronto finished on Thursday, blaming the province for shuffling its feet on the deal and then delaying a council debate he was almost sure to lose, anyway.

Ford said he had stressed to the province that Toronto would have to receive a “fair share” of revenue from a downtown casino – a minimum of $100 million per year.

"If the province won't agree to that 100 million then, folks, the deal is dead. We will not carry on with the casino debate," Ford told a press conference, which aired on CP24.

That would be a generous piece of the pie, much larger than municipalities usually receive for hosting a casino. But a gaming hall in downtown Toronto is expected to be a cash cow for the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.

[ Related: Rob Ford under investigation for placing fridge magnets on cars ]

Toronto’s city manager had suggested that council should request at least that much if they were going to allow a casino to come downtown. That report was supposed to be discussed at a special meeting of council scheduled for next Tuesday – May 21. Ford said he would cancel that meeting and the casino report could be addressed at a general meeting on June 11.

Ford has been a strong supporter of bringing a casino to Toronto, which he said would create 10,000 good jobs. He said at his conference on Thursday that he was not “married to a casino” and that he wouldn’t fight for one if it is not a benefit to the city. Namely, if the city didn’t receive an appropriate cut of the revenue.

"I am sick and tired of playing games. As of this morning the province has not announced its formula for this casino," Ford told reporters. "I will not support a Toronto casino that is not in the best interest of our city."

There were some immediate questions about the announcement, however. A large number of city councillors outright opposed a downtown casino, and it seems apparent that the casino plan was bound to be defeated at Tuesday’s special council session, regardless of Toronto's share of the revenue.

[ More Brew: Toronto to change 1,000 traffic lights to combat congestion ]

Edward Keenan, the senior editor at Toronto’s The Grid weekly newspaper, suggested Ford may have killed the casino debate so he could resurrect it at a later date.

What’s that? It does in fact appear that councillors were willing to force the casino debate regardless of Ford’s declaration. Coun. Gord Perks, a casino opponent, hinted as much on Twitter moments after the announcement.

Stay tuned for updates from the floor of Toronto’s zombie casino debate. Is it alive? Is it dead? Only time will tell.