By John Adams, Special to TorontoMoon.ca
The residents of Montreal have no problem in telling people just how amazing their city is, especially if they happen to be speaking to someone from Toronto. One area that the people of Montreal can take pride in is their city’s thriving gambling sector.
The Casino de Montreal is one of the world’s most iconic gambling venues and is undoubtedly a huge draw to the 11 million overseas tourists that visit Montreal every year. Whilst it may seem counterintuitive to praise Montreal for something, could Toronto benefit from adopting a similar approach to gambling?
A look around the famous Casino de Montreal:
Gambling in Toronto
At time of writing there are 4 official gambling venues in Toronto that can be categorised as ‘casinos’. Whoever came up with that figure appears to have played fast and loose with the exact definition of a ‘casino’.
Despite housing over 3,000 slot machines between them and a number of table games, Toronto’s casinos are tiny in comparison to Casino de Montreal or even other smaller casinos across Canada.
The rise in popularity and use of online casinos was expected to slow any plans for casino developments in Toronto – however, the provincial government and Ontario’s gambling authorities are reportedly encouraging private companies to set-up casinos in Toronto.
Although no official plans have been released for a super casino in Toronto, it is clear that the city could sustain one. So what would be the pros and cons of such an establishment in our city?
Jobs – Pro
Toronto’s current unemployment rate sits slightly higher than the national average and one way to rectify that would be by building a super casino. The short-term employment benefits would be felt in the construction and services sector.
In the long-term though a super casino would provide an enormous boost in jobs. Casino de Montreal directly employs 6,000 people with numerous others indirectly as a result of the increased visitors in the locale.
A super casino in Toronto would significantly reduce the city’s unemployment rates.
Anti-social Behaviour – Con
It is very well documented that gambling brings with it an inherent risk of social problems. Stepping away from the direct issues of problem gambling, a super casino would bring with it a rise in anti-social behaviour.
The US gambling hub of Las Vegas is affectionately referred to as ‘Sin City’ for good reason. The plethora of gambling venues have encouraged a certain demographic of visitors that have served to bring the morality of the city into question.
Whilst that may not happen in Toronto it’s important to remember that any super casino increases the risk of anti-social behaviour.
Small Business’ Boost – Pro
As mentioned earlier in the article, Casino de Montreal brings in massive numbers of foreign tourists. These visitors from overseas do not just sleep, eat and enjoy themselves in the casino though.
They come and spend their money all over Montreal providing a direct boost to small businesses, particularly those in the hotel and service industry. Toronto’s as yet unimagined super casino would provide a huge stimulus to many flagging small businesses’ in the city.
A Loss of Identity – Con
Cities such as London, Paris and Berlin are big enough to accommodate a thriving gambling industry alongside a host of others. London is home to the UK’s only super casino but there is no chance that the British capital will become known solely for gambling.
In Toronto we would perhaps not have that same luxury. Aggressive gambling expansion in the form of a super casino could lead Toronto on the path to becoming a gambling satellite city.
Whilst that would be good economically for the city, it could damage other industries in Toronto and change our city’s identity and image.
‘Tacky’ and ‘Grotesque’ just a few words used to describe Las Vegas by visitors. Not something we would want for Toronto.
A Super Casino Alternative
There is a way that Toronto could benefit from the growing gambling industry without taking any social or economic hits. The online gambling industry is growing rapidly all across the world and none more so than in Canada.
Online gambling laws in Canada are murky to say the least, with licensing decided on a provincial rather than a nationwide basis. Offshore providers are legally entitled to provide casino games for Canadians as they are not under the jurisdiction of the government.
Canadian providers however must operate from native reserves to avoid falling foul of law makers. However, if Ontario were to take the step to fully legalize online gambling, Toronto could become the country’s online gambling hub.
Local politicians and lawmakers could promote Toronto as the place to set-up Canadian online gambling companies. Thus raking in the financial rewards of gambling through taxation and negating the need to embark on expensive super casino projects.
In summary, this would be the best way for Toronto to benefit from gambling. Four mid-sized casinos coupled with a flourishing remote sector would be more than enough for the people of Toronto.