REFERENDUM ON TORONTO CASINO?
Ontario Government Not Saying Whether New Rules Will Keep Referendum Requirement
By Susanna Kelley
The Ontario government isn't saying yet whether the idea of a casino for the Greater Toronto Area will be put to a municipal referendum, as has been required by law for other casinos in the past.
The Ministry of Finance will not reveal whether Toronto citizens will be allowed to vote on whether they want the casino in their city under new regulations now being drawn up. No new regulations have been given cabinet approval at this time.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Finance Minister Dwight Duncan
The current regulation provided that even if a municipal referendum passed, municipal council's approval was required before a casino could be built.
The Finance Minister did say at his announcement Monday that municipal council approval will be required.
Current regulations say the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) itself does not have the authority to establish a new casino at this time, according to a prominent Toronto law firm.
That power ran out in 2003, says a "Bulletin on Gaming" released Tuesday by Blake, Cassels and Graydon.
It says under those regulations, a casino could not be built unless the OLG determined the location to be an "eligible municipality."
But "OLG is not authorized to make any further eligibility designations (after March 31, 2003.) Accordingly, under the Act and the current Regulation, OLG does not have the authority to authorize the establishment of a new casino in the Greater Toronto Area or elsewhere in Ontario," say Blake's lawyers John Tuzyk and James Sanders.
That authority, however, could be granted under any new regulations.
In addition, the current rules required council's approval of a revenue sharing plan drawn up by the OLG, as well as for any rezoning required.
Even if a referendum passed, the OLG had to designate the location as "suitable," based on factors that included its cost and viability.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is on record as favouring a casino for the city.
However, critics say the casino market is saturated, and any gain for a Toronto casino will be at the expense of others, especially those in Rama near Orillia and Niagara Falls.
Casinos in Niagara Falls and Windsor were originally located there with the idea that they would draw money from U.S. citizens.
Critics say that's not an option for a Toronto area casino, and charge it will draw money away from restaurants and other entertainment venues in the city.
The government is banking on revenues from a new casino to help it pay down a $16 billion deficit.
You can find Susanna here: @susannakelley