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MGM eyes Toronto waterfront for casino resort

One of the world’s largest gaming and hospitality companies is eyeing Toronto’s waterfront for a luxury casino resort along the lines of Las Vegas’s famed Bellagio.

MGM Resorts International announced Tuesday that it has hired the Sussex Strategy Group to lobby on its behalf, hoping to convince city councillors that the multi-billion dollar project would not only create jobs, but bring ample opportunity for future growth to the city.

Two councillors, Mike Layton and Adam Vaughan, have already tabled motions related to the ongoing casino debate.

Both Vaughan’s motion to hold a referendum on a casino and Layton’s motion to keep Ontario Place casino-free were deferred to the Executive Committee at a recent council meeting.

They will be up for discussion next month.

But MGM’s senior vice-president of public affairs Alan Feldman says casinos are an important but relatively small facet of his company’s sprawling properties.

Feldman says MGM-owned “integrated resorts” like the Bellagio, Luxor, Mandalay Bay and The Mirage, pull in just 35 per cent of their revenue from gambling.  

The rest comes from hotels, convention centres, theatres, shops and restaurants.

“We really view ourselves as being in the hospitality and entertainment business and the casino is a part of it,” he told CityNews in a phone interview.

The local workforce would hit the jackpot long before any hands were dealt, he stressed.

“For a city like Toronto we would be talking about thousands…of constructions jobs, then on with thousands of permanent positions in the integrated resort and then there are secondary jobs for suppliers, and vendors…”

MGM has its sights set on the waterfront, but didn’t specify a particular area. “(Toronto) is fortunate…to have a spectacular skyline on the waterfront,” Feldman said. “The more you can take advantage of that, the more opportunity you can create for everyone.”

Feldman, who calls Toronto one of his “favourite cities in the world,” said MGM will accept rejection and move on if council votes against its plan.

“If [they] tell us, ‘No, that’s really not what we are looking for,’ we will say ‘thank you very much.’ It will break my heart, but we will move on.”

“Toronto is a magnificent city,” he added. “It is one of the great international cities of the world.”

“This could be a really good opportunity.”