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OLG mum on possibility of Toronto casino until review completed

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) won’t comment on a report that it’s looking into building a casino in Toronto until a gaming review has been completed.

OLG spokesman Tony Bitonti told CityNews.ca the agency is in the midst of conducting a “strategic business review” looking at the future of gaming in the province and wouldn’t confirm a report Friday in the Globe and Mail about plans for a gaming house in Toronto.

“We’ll be submitting recommendations to the [provincial] government based on the results of this review, once the work is done,” Bitonti said.

There is no timeline for the completion of the report, he added.

“I can’t comment on a proposed Toronto casino … until the work is done,” Bitonti said, “and then it goes to the province and the province is the one that sets the gaming policy.”

The province doesn’t plan on making any decisions until it receives the review, Bitonti added.

Talk of the possibility of a casino for Toronto comes as city hall struggles to erase red ink and the province deals with a $16-billion deficit. And the idea is nothing new. Last March, Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti proposed a floating casino in the Ontario Place harbour, and a red light district on the Toronto Islands. At the time, he claimed the city could make $500 million from a casino.

The OLG has spoken to Toronto officials about future possibilities, Bitonti said, because it’s already considered a “host municipality” and a “key stakeholder” due to the fact it has slots at Woodbine Racetrack.

The OLG gives the province about $40 million a year, which it spends on programs for problem gamblers.

The agency itself spends about $9 million a year on its responsible gaming policy, which includes a self-exclusion option for people with gambling addictions. Facial recognition technology is in place in OLG casinos that will point out people who’ve joined that self-exclusion program.

“If people do try to come in who are … on the database, we can go and prevent them from going into the casino,” Bitonti said. “We have an extensive responsible gaming initiative.”

The problems associated with casinos will also be included in the OLG review, Bitonti said.