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Committee votes to proceed with public consultations on casino

TORONTO, Ont. – The city’s executive committee voted to begin public consultations on the contentious downtown casino Monday.

Mayor Rob Ford’s executive committee heard from dozens of constituents and groups about the possible casino.

The committee has been handed a city staff report that estimates the city stands to make between $66-million and $168-million in hosting fees.

The staff report includes a brief line from the city’s medical officer of health that a casino in Toronto would increase the number of problem gamblers by almost three per cent.

Dr. Nigel Turner, a researcher at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), said it’s a big risk.

“If there’s a casino nearby, they’re more likely to gamble; they’re more likely to then have a gambling problem,” Dr. Turner said.

The report is said to list four possible venues including the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Exhibition Place, the Port Lands and the Woodbine Racetrack.

If the city decides to pursue a casino, Woodbine president Nick Eaves wants it, and said without it, the facility’s future is in jeopardy.

“When it comes to operating safe, responsible and successful gaming facilities, Woodbine has already got it right,” Eaves said.

Maureen Lynnet, who heads up the ‘No Casino Toronto’ group, said the numbers being presented to the city are biased.

“And when most of your sources are from gambling associations, that is not balanced,” Lynnet said.

She’s pushing for a referendum on the issue.

Meanwhile, Toronto police reportedly told the consultants that it doesn’t anticipate any increase in crime from a casino, other than what would be expected for any new influx of people or development.