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MGM International Resorts would hire and promote Canadian talent — including Cirque du Soleil and chef Mark McEwan — if chosen to build Toronto’s first casino, MGM chairman and chief executive officer Jim Murren says.

The casino would attract a million visitors a year from outside Ontario and generate $1 billion a year in non-gaming activity, Murren also said in a speech to the Economic Club of Canada on Tuesday.

Toronto is challenged by its transportation infrastructure and, while an integrated resort wouldn’t solve those problems, it could help by generating new revenue, he said.

Rather than “cannibalize” existing businesses, an MGM-style resort would create new opportunities, he said in his first major public speech.

MGM Resorts is betting the city of Toronto has “no better than” a 50-50 chance of approving a casino, Murren told a Global TV show earlier Tuesday.

“If it doesn’t happen here there will be one somewhere in Ontario,” he said during a press conference following the speech. “Our preference and the OLG’s preference is to be in Toronto.”

Murren’s speech comes amid a public consultation process the city managers’ office has undertaken to determine support for a casino.

The city manager is scheduled to report back to the mayor’s executive committee on the issue in March. City council is expected to vote on the issue in April.

The public events have been roughly evenly split between casino supporters who see the economic benefits and critics who fear an increase in crime and gambling addictions, Murren said.

He said MGM builds large integrated resorts aimed at well-heeled patrons with a lot of disposable income, who want to shop, dine and go to live shows as well as gamble.

Only 10 per cent of the resort would be devoted to gambling, he said.

The resorts bring in tourists from around the world, create jobs and boost the local economy, he said.

“If we were to invest $2 to $4 billion in Toronto we would employ thousands of people. The average income of the people we employ is over $60,000 a year,” he said.

It would take three years to build, employing thousands more people.

Toronto is one of the most attractive cities in North America to build one because of its highly diverse population, he said. “Many of them are already our guest at the Bellagio in Las Vegas,” he said, referring to one of MGM’s premier properties.

Other projects MGM is pursuing are much smaller, for example near Washington, D.C., where it plans to spend $800 million.

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