Toronto’s beautiful waterfront has been somewhat neglected in recent times. Now, the Premier of Ontario Doug Ford is spearheading a rejuvenation project that could see a new casino being built there.
Gambling in Toronto
The approaches taken by the provinces in Canada are significantly different to the situation seen south of the border in the United States. In the last decade or so, the United States authorities largely rallied against online gambling, whereas the Canadian public has embraced it.
Gambling laws have been controlled by the respective provinces in Canada since 1985. The Canadian criminal code still applies to these areas.
The province of Ontario first legalized casino gambling in 1980 and a number of establishments popped up in the area surrounding Toronto, as well as in the city itself.
Online gambling was legalized, but through just one iGaming site that was run on a provincial level. However, Canadian residents can access offshore online gambling offerings without facing any consequences.
As of 2018, there was just a single land-based casino inside Toronto’s city limits – the OLG Slots, which is located at the Woodbine Racetrack. There are certain limitations in place, with the offering made up only of electronic versions of poker and table games in addition to slots.
If playing with live dealers is your preference, one of your closest options is a couple of hours’ drive away from the city at Casino Rama, a resort casino that is operated by the First Nation. There are also several offerings in and around the border with the United States.
The online gambling platform operated in Toronto is called the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG). It is the only fully licensed online platform that is operated and regulated in the province and fully protects consumers who use the platform.
It offers a variety of different casino games, in addition to people being able to buy their tickets to the lottery on this platform.
Gambling on online offshore sites is effectively legal in Toronto as there are no penalties in place, either for those operating these offshore sites or for the players who use them.
There have been calls for clarification of the online gambling rules on a legislative stage, but nothing meaningful has happened on this front as yet.
There had been talk of making the internet service providers block residents in Canada from gaining access to there online gambling platforms that are offshore, but again no progress has been made on this matter.
New casino for Toronto
Premier Ford is planning to redevelop the waterfront to restore it to its former glory. When Ford was a city councilor, he had pushed for a casino to be developed in the area and it is clearly still a goal of his.
The Ontario Place theme park, which is owned by the province, has been neglected for many years and is something of an eyesore these days. Something needs to be done with it. The theme park was closed in 2012 because of low attendance numbers as well as ongoing government austerity measures.
The planned revitalization of Ontario Place was announced by Ford in August. He said: “It will be transformed into the most spectacular destination anywhere in North America to visit”. No proper details of the new redevelopment plans have been released yet.
Toronto mayor John Tory is against this casino idea and a city council vote held in 2013 on the matter was significantly defeated.
While private gambling partners in the province have not yet had discussions about a potential casino, many envisage a lot of obstacles.
Should a waterfront casino open, it could potentially open the floodgates for other facilities in the province. The Greater Canadian Consortium group, which operates the three gambling facilities currently found throughout the greater area of Toronto, also has the power of veto to block any further casino developments. This was apparently part of its deal with the OLG.
The consortium is alleged to have a condition as part of its contract that would allow it to develop a new facility in the city. However, the city council would need to give its approval to do so.
The provincial government has a provision it could fall back on if the council rejected the idea. Called the Minister’s Zoning Order, it allows the province to take control of the use of land despite the municipality objecting.