Toronto residents will soon get the chance to give their input on a proposed casino, after the city’s executive committee approved a series of public consultations on the controversial gambling and entertainment complex. Most trade and convention cities in Canada and North America have already allowed casinos nearby, including Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax and even the latest convention town – Ajax.
Over the past decade, trade and consumer shows in Toronto have taken a hit. Trade shows have seen lower attendance, fewer exhibitors and even the cancellation or amalgamation of shows.
Will a new casino complex in the heart of Toronto revive the trade show industry? In our opinion, that depends upon the location. Here is the list of potential sites for the new casino:
Metro Toronto Convention Centre ( www.mtccc.com )
Oxford Properties Group recently announced its development project for a $3 billion casino complex. The project is still pending the support of council to be built in downtown Toronto. But this could likely be the frontrunner in the bid for a world renowned entertainment complex. The project would be fully funded by the private sector but built and operated by a group selected by the province.
The Metro Toronto Convention Centre would be revamped and expanded, bringing new life to this trade show venue. The new downtown casino centre would also host an addition 4,000 new parking spots. Its new location would allow for two residential and office towers across from it.
Exhibition Place ( www.explace.on.ca )
The barren, open space known for hosting the annual Canadian National Exhibition is devoid of crowds for the rest of the year. A casino opens temporarily for just over a month during the yearly CNE event, but aside from those operations, the land is relatively untouched.
With no immediate neighbourhood, this could be the perfect location for a casino to thrive. Empty convention centers could also host the proposed tourism hub of adjoining restaurants and bars. With the city owning the land, it could also generate direct income for Toronto.
Ontario Place ( www.ontarioplace.com )
This park is currently undergoing a facelift as the city attempts to revitalize the neglected site. Ontario Place, which was shut down this past February, is being transformed into “an innovative provincial landmark” according to its website.
The casino could potentially become part of this revitalization project, as an entertainment hub along the waterfront. However, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said earlier this year that the site wasn’t large enough to host such a large entertainment project.
Woodbine Racetrack ( www.woodbineentertainment.com )
The racetrack operators are eager to turn this location into a bustling casino entertainment hub. Its Etobicoke location means it is outside of the downtown core, but is a favourite among Toronto residents. According to a poll conducted by Woodbine Entertainment, it found 51% of the 500 residents surveyed supported a casino at Woodbine Racetrack.
The Portlands (www.tplc.ca )
This rumoured location, like Ontario Place, features a prime lakefront location. Large gambling giants like MGM have said that the building of a casino in the GTA is dependent on a waterfront location. But The Portlands is already seeking money to fund a major infrastructure project from city council to turn the derelict land into a bustling community.
Downsview Park ( www.downsviewpark.ca )
This proposed location has been mentioned as a potential site by some, but it is less popular than the other rumoured locations. The land, which is a federally owned former military base, doesn’t have the key features of a downtown spot or waterfront views, but could provide the space needed for a large complex. The project would be fully funded by the private sector but built and operated by a group selected by the province.
So which location would give the best boost to Toronto’s Trade Show industry? Let us know what you think in the comments.