BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: As progress on a proposed Toronto gaming facility moves on, representatives of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation continue to rally in support of the local Great Blue Heron Charity Casino.
The latest development in the proposal to create a Toronto casino came recently, after several large commercial developers, including RioCan, criticized the idea of locating the facility in the city's downtown. Such a facility would likely be built in one of three downtown Toronto sites - the Port Lands, Exhibition Place or Metro Toronto Convention Centre - the latter of which is close to a parcel of land purchased by the three developers critical of the proposed facility. Coincidentally, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission (OLG) Chair Paul Godfrey also serves as board chair for RioCan.
For the Mississaugas, little has changed.
"Our casino is a huge success for our community, and for Ontario," said Missassaugas Councillor Kelly LaRocca. "We oppose anything that would make us less of a success.
In a previous interview with The Standard, Ms. LaRocca, who is also a member of the Baagwating Community Association (BCA), the charitable arm of the Great Blue Heron Charity Casino on Scugog Island, a Toronto casino will undoubtedly have an impact on local casino revenues and subsequently, the ability of the BCA to donate proceeds to local causes and organizations. Since the Great Blue Heron's doors opened in January 1997, millions of dollars have been donated to Scugog Township and various charities and non-profit organizations, according to the casino's web site.
In addition to any immediate impact felt by the local casino's operators, the announcement has delayed the Great Blue Heron's expansion plans currently under discussion, which would add 25 tables and 300 slot machines, as well as allow for increased betting limits on a number of existing games.
Those plans hit a roadblock in 2011, pending provincial approvals of certain conditions regarding the table and betting limit increases.
"It makes little sense to support the set up of something in Toronto or Markham that would hurt our community or the Durham Region," said Ms. LaRocca. "We have already communicated this sentiment to the government and the Opposition parties. We hope they are listening. We intend to continue our opposition to a casino in Toronto or Markham so as to protect the jobs, success, and goodwill that the GBH Casino has fostered to date."
The casino proposal was part of a March 2012 announcement by the OLG, which also saw the elimination of the slots at race tracks program. The elimination of that program has also resonated throughout the rural areas of the GTA and Durham Region, where numerous horse farmers are now facing an uncertain future in their industry.
The cuts are estimated to save the province more than $1.3 billion.
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