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In a sign of casino companies’ eagerness to build in Toronto, Mayor Rob Ford got a visit at City Hall from Sheldon Adelson, controversial owner of the Las Vegas Sands empire and one of the world’s richest men.

Adelson, 79, arrived at Ford’s office Thursday afternoon with his wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, and two aides for the private, unpublicized 45-minute meeting that he had requested.

Ford’s office declined to give details but Adelson is registered to lobby city officials on his interest in building a casino resort in Toronto.

Sands, along with MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment and others, signaled interest after the Ontario government said it will build one new casino in the GTA.

After the meeting, which also included senior Ford aides Mark Towhey and Earl Provost, the billionaire making headlines as a super donor to Republican election efforts sounded cautious about a Toronto casino.

“There’s lots of ifs,” Adelson said before climbing into a stretch limousine in city hall’s underground parking lot.

The province has said it won’t force the casino on an unwilling municipality, setting up what is expected to be a ferocious Toronto City Council debate this fall on whether to give the province, and casino suitors, the green light.

With Monday’s announcement that the province wants to build a casino in the GTA, the most immediate question is a simple one: Where?

The answer will be far from simple.

“(Casinos) are always political and always controversial,” says Ross Moore, director of research for Canada at CBRE Ltd., a commercial real estate firm.

Edmonton, Winnipeg, Montreal and Halifax all have downtown casinos.

“They’re popping up, but they’re not easy to pull off because there’s planning issues, there’s transportation issues, there’s zoning — just a whole host of issues,” said Moore.

Political reaction across the GTA to Monday’s announcement ran the gamut. Ontario Lottery and Gaming chair Paul Godfrey has said the province will not choose a location against the wishes of local officials, In Toronto, that means city council majority support.

Councillor Doug Ford and Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday have cited gambling revenues as a way to fund the city’s transit expansion. Ford has suggested expanding his ward’s Woodbine Racetrack, which now offers slots, to include full-fledged gambling tables. “Take $200 million a year (in city proceeds) and put it towards transit,” he said.


2013      Feb 6

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