Posts Tagged ‘casinos’

Poker playing politicos.

Monday, September 3rd, 2018

It has been a while since playing poker at the local casino. The people who work the tables as a team, at that place, play a rough game. I stick to blackjack and craps at the casino and play poker monthly with a group of friends who have played together for years. The more interesting games when I was younger were the late-night games with politicos at party conferences.

This comes up because someone asked me the other day if I would want to play poker with Donald Trump. Expletive deleted, I said ‘No.’ The simple reason was that I would have no reason to not expect him to cheat. This is a man whose entire business career was a constantly cascading house of cards.

With Mr. Trump, you can always tell when he is lying. He opens his mouth. That is something of a cliché but he exemplifies the branding.

The same person then asked me if I would like to play poker with Justin Trudeau. I thought about that. I finally said ‘yes’ because I would certainly like to add some of the Trudeau wealth to my bank account.

But I would feel guilty. The Canadian prime minister is an easy read. I have been fascinated watching that man turn his public persona on and off. And as that gal from Timmins sings, “That don’t impress me much.”

And it makes Trudeau a ‘patsy’ for Trump. The American is holding up our prime minister to ridicule. He is holding Canada in contempt. He needs to be told in no uncertain terms to ‘Get stuffed.’

That is not a diplomatic term but its use would do him a favour. He has no understanding of diplomatic. “Get stuffed,” the jerk is likely to understand.

To be honest, we would be doing the dummy a favour. As the best friends America has ever had, Canada has the right to use plain American English. We have no need to pussy-foot with Trump. Why would you ever want to?

This game of his with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a deep insult to Canada and, win or lose, Canadians are not going to be forgiving. If Trudeau caves in on even one of Trump’s stupid demands, Trudeau will be out on his ass in next year’s elections.

Canada could be facing a few tough years without NAFTA, but in the long run, we might be better off without it. And no tin-pot dictator is going to hold our country up for ransom.


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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Casinos and the Pope’s rules.

Monday, May 20th, 2013

It is supposed to be an Italian saying about the Pope and birth control. It is that people who do not play the game should not make the rules for those who play. Having a rule such as that would also certainly save a lot of time tomorrow when Toronto City Council debates casinos. Based on everything we have heard to-date, it will just be the ignorant leading the stupid. People who have never been in a casino in their life will tell you what they believe.

Say what you want about our former provincial gambling tsar but Paul Godfrey knows casinos and likes to gamble. He used to go on weekend junkets to Las Vegas. He has proved that he gambles as a politician and as a businessman. He bought the Post newspapers when all the smart money is going to the Internet. He is gambling on his newspapers being able to transition to the Internet.

And when Paul’s entire board of Ontario Lottery and Gaming resigned in protest over his firing, it was a deliberate kick in the teeth for Premier Kathleen Wynne. In this day and age, that is a rare show of solidarity.

But what we will see tomorrow at Toronto City Council will be the furthest thing from solidarity. The only event that could get that council working together would be Mayor Rob Ford’s resignation.

The major problems for any discussion at City Council are the demands that city staff think the politicians should ask of any casino complex. The demands are unreasonable, a very bad business model and a guarantee of the failure of any negotiations. It is as though city staff planned it that way.

In a more perfect world than that on display at Toronto Council, the result tomorrow should be approval of Woodbine Entertainment getting the casino table games the organization has always wanted. That will leave Markham and maybe Mississauga free to fight it out for a full-fledged casino complex down the road.  It would create an entertainment and convention centre for either municipality that would soon be the envy of their poor cousins in dreary old, bluestocking Toronto.

And as for Premier Wynne and her cabinet, they have to get some people at the helm of Ontario Lottery and Gaming who know something about the subject. There is no learning curve allowed.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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What’s with wrong-way Wynne?

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Talking with a long-term political friend the other day, the best advice we could provide was to remind him of the old chestnut: Keep your friends close; keep your enemies closer. That is the advice someone forgot to supply Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. Firing Ontario Lottery’s Paul Godfrey yesterday was a foolish move. It could mean that the Liberal Premier’s house of cards is starting to crumble.

Using Godfrey to front for the government’s gambling addiction was a carry-over from the McGuinty regime that was working. (And let’s face it: not many of the McGuinty era schemes were.) Wynne had to keep her government in a denial space with Ontario’s bluestockings. For her to allow herself to be drawn into any of this Toronto casino debate is to allow the naysayers to make the connection.  She has far too many strikes against her already.

And Kathleen Wynne obviously knows absolutely nothing about the casino business. She almost lost her footing on the subject earlier in the year when she told Toronto Mayor Rob Ford that there would be no special deal for Toronto to host a casino. Her response to Ford showed a complete ignorance of both the casino business and the politics involved in the question.

This woman seems to forget that she has only been elected by the people in her electoral district in Toronto—which we seem to recall usually vote Conservative. She was chosen as Premier by a small group of sheep artfully culled from the provincial herd of Liberals by a corrupted selection process. Instead of preparing for the proper selection process based on an Ontario-wide vote, she has been clawing at anyone who questions her right to the Premier’s office.

Wynne’s wooing of New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath to keep her government in power has been nauseating. The Sousa budget that is supposed to be propped up by the New Democrats is a hodge-podge of failed ideas that lack credentials in either Liberal or NDP circles.

Wynne will not win this one by declaring herself tsar of all the gaming in Ontario. Her situation is doubly serious with the entire board of Ontario Lottery and Gaming resigning in support of Godfrey. She forgot, he has been in politics far longer and he knows more about politics than her.

Wynne’s days are numbered.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Casino debate? Don’t bet on it.

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

If there is an elected city council anywhere that knows the difference between debate and posturing, it has been keeping it secret. Toronto Council will spend a day on May 21 debating whether Toronto will have a downtown casino. You know ahead of time, that it will be a day of posturing, not enlightenment.

It would save all members of council from looking colossally stupid if they just convened, voted and then spent the day helping out at their local food bank or soup kitchen. There is nothing new they can say on the subject of a casino that they have not already said ad nauseam. They have absolutely no new information. The basic problem is that they are short on facts and long on biases.

And, as is the usual custom, they have been misled by city staff. The list of demands, prepared by staff, that they are supposed to impose on a developer are a joke. No honest developer would ever agree to all those conditions. And they certainly cannot promise the city $100 million a year. A casino is a business. It has to be run as a business. If it is not run as a business, most knowledgeable gamblers would stay away from it.

It would certainly help if Toronto councillors made a field trip to Niagara Falls. This is not to gamble but to just look at three casinos. They are the new Fallsview, the old Casino Niagara and the Seneca Casino on the American side of the river. Frankly, after looking at the three casinos, you would not want Ontario Lottery and Gaming to be responsible for a tattoo parlour. What the councillors would learn is that the casino business works well when it is able to be competitive.

On May 21, Torontonians can at least expect that Woodbine Entertainment will finally get the city nod for some table games and be recognized as a full-fledged casino. A downtown casino is not as good a bet. Not to worry though, Markham Council might not act as stupid and that municipality would be a very profitable location for a casino.

With privately run, casinos at Woodbine, Orillia and Markham, healthy competition between them can be encouraged. They might not be the cash cows demanded by greedy politicians but they might just serve as legal outlets for gambling in this part of our country and serve to reduce the cash outflow to Las Vegas.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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You have gotta hand it to Rosie.

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

There is a saying that the true measure of a person’s intelligence is how much they agree with you. That makes Rosie DiManno at the Toronto Star a very intelligent person. We had frankly given up any hope of any writer at the Toronto Star telling the truth about the current casino controversy in the city. Just read her page two story today (April 16, 2013). It is bang on the target!

Mind you, Rosie is a superb writer. It is obvious in everything she writes that she really enjoys writing. And not since the days of Pierre Burton and Gordon Sinclair writing columns has the Toronto Star given a writer the same freedom. Rosie writes what she sees. If anyone dares to edit her copy, it is done with care and respect.

Rosie reminds you of Pierre Burton in one way. Pierre tended to be overly fond of his own wordsmithing. He could always write a thousand words when 200 words could do the job. In the modern 140-character world of Twitter, Pierre Burton would be a dinosaur. Rosie must also be paid by the word. Her columns are typically over 1000 words. You tend to use various speed reading techniques to quickly grasp what she is going on about.

But every word of Rosie’s column today is another gem. She could get into trouble with the Star’s lawyers for referring to one petitioner before city council executive as a “whack-job.”  It is unlikely there is a judge who would fine her more than a loonie for that bit of slander. On the Internet, nobody cares.

Rosie gets you laughing by telling you about the petitioner who gives the politicians the raspberry. Here you have some 200 people having their three minutes of fame, making fools of themselves in front of the executive committee. This is high humour. The more she tells you about what they said, the less you understand about the basic question.

But Rosie helps. She recognizes that somewhere in the GTA, there will be a casino. ((She might not be aware of the illegal ones that have been thriving under the radar.)  Rosie figures that what the Ontario government wants, the Ontario government gets. And it wants the easy money that a casino offers the proprietors.

Rosie says that the Exhibition grounds or Woodbine would be the best location for the Toronto casino. And that was Babel-on-the-Bay’s stand when this entire dialogue started. Welcome to common sense Rosie!


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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“I’m just a lonely boy, lonely and blue.”

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Ottawa’s Paul Anka said it best. You can understand the anguish of his famous song when you feel lonely. And, wow, can you ever feel lonely when you find you are allied with that rag-tag group of misfits on the Toronto Executive Committee. These people want a casino in Toronto for all the wrong reasons.

Toronto Council, according to most of its spokespeople, is motivated solely by greed. They want casino operators to guaranteed hosting fees of at least $100 million per year. No responsible developer can guarantee that from a casino. And woe-betide the casino operator who has to put paying his nut to the city ahead of building and maintaining a healthy base of happy customers.

This fiasco draws you to the conclusion that neither side of the casino issue knows what they are talking about. And that hardly stops them from telling you all about what they do not know.

And now we find that a staff report for city councillors recommends that they use the casino as a carrot for a developer who will include an over-sized convention complex with the casino. The report thinks that such a complex could attract some $392 million in direct spending in the city. What the report fails to tell the councillors is that a casino by itself, properly located and promoted, could keep as many as five per cent of visitors in the city for an extra day and probably generate three times as much direct spending.

The report does, grudgingly, suggest that council support the expansion of Woodbine Entertainment into a full-fledged casino operation. This should have happened years ago and it draws on an entirely different market than a downtown or Scarborough location would serve.

People in Toronto should remember that theirs is the fourth largest English speaking metropolitan area in North America and it attracts over 20 million visitors a year. Nobody cares if you like to gamble or not. Some people do. If we are going to continue to attract visitors to our city, we need to offer a wide range of attractions, activities, sports, theatre, dining, etc. Casinos are just part of the excitement and fun of a great city experience.

Casinos are not a cash cow for lazy city councillors who are bereft of good ideas as to how they can fund the infrastructure and services that make a great city work.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Revelling in others’ marketing mistakes.

Monday, February 25th, 2013

It is quite sad that the Toronto Star editorial writers seem to have so little understanding of the vagaries and ups and downs of the market place. Maybe being part of a vast, monolithic organization as Torstar causes them to be somewhat immune to such concerns.  In one of their many anti-casino diatribes, they appeared to be chortling over the misfortunes of a multi-billion dollar resort casino in Atlantic City.

Yet, maybe there is a message in this. The problem with Revel, the Atlantic City casino resort, is that it denied everything. It was much too ritzy to survive in that tacky-town market. It ignored the day-trippers from New York who built that city. It focussed on an ocean that everyone turned their back on. It was a marketing experiment by people who must have flunked Marketing 101. And they spent billions during the second worst time in American economic history.

What Paul Godfrey and friends have against calling a casino a casino, we will never know. We can tell you truthfully that nobody visits Atlantic City to see the ocean, be pampered in luxury hotels and enjoy fine cuisine. They come to gamble, dammit.

So what does that mean in Toronto? Why are we talking resort hotels on the Exhibition grounds? Why would anyone want to overcrowd the Convention Centre, basket ball/hockey palace and baseball park area with more hotel rooms and a casino? The truth is that Toronto is already a destination. It has lots of great hotels, wonderful restaurants representing the world of cuisine, the best of theatres, sports, parks and entertainments. All it needs is a few casinos to spice things up and be a full service city.

If you pushed a bit, Woodbine Entertainment could have table games in place in less than a month. It already has a casino in place, if it would just get rid of some of those slots. There are also a bunch of questionable banquet halls around the city where casinos could spring up like magic.

Be honest people. Toronto will never be Las Vegas North. You really do not want it to be. You want Toronto to be the open, friendly, welcoming city that accepts people, it always has been. You do not want to force your standards on others. You believe in live and let live. And if people want to gamble—which is quite legal—you want it to be in friendly, well managed, properly regulated premises. That should be our only concern.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Location, location, location: builds casinos.

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

It has finally been deduced that the main argument in Toronto over casinos is where they will be located. Some people got it into their minds that the Toronto Convention Centre would be a great location. All that has done is confuse the issue.

It has already been determined that nobody cares what the residents of Toronto feel about the issue. The level of ignorance among the citizenry, their politicians and the news media has made it clear that any discussion of the facts for or against the issues involved is a waste of time. There are just too many people who are neither interested in facts nor willing to allow others their individual rights.

The few politicians actually willing to fairly discuss the pros and cons of the casino issue are lost in the overwhelming rift between the Mayor Ford supporters and the Mayor Ford haters. If you are a Ford supporter, you are expected to favour a casino. If you are a Ford detractor, you are expected to shun casinos, demon rum and the devil in equal parts.

But the biggest problem—mentioned earlier—is the location problem. The people promoting the Toronto Convention Centre location for a casino are crazy like foxes. They could care less about the infrastructure problems involved. So what if the area is hyper congested and unable to support the sheer numbers of people. That is bonus day to these developers. Congestion makes them rich. That is their nirvana. It assures their future.

If you have never stood outside the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas on a Saturday evening to watch that panorama thingy they do in Vegas, you might not understand. There is a magic to the event. And if you do not have your pocket picked and get groped by at least three hookers, you have not fully enjoyed the scene.

But realistically, the better Toronto locations for a casino are at the west end of the Exhibition Grounds, Woodbine Race Track or at the far end of Scarborough. In any of those locations, the land should be owned by the city and the city’s share of the proceeds are easily ensured.

Of course this might require that some of the city politicians grow up and realize that they cannot stand Canute-like against the tides of human nature. The people in Toronto who want to go to a casino will go anyway. Why give the profits to bus companies?


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Rallying the anti-casino forces in Toronto.

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

The Toronto Star ran another anti-casino story last Friday. This was not an editorial. It was not even supposed to be an opinion piece. The story was above the fold on the front page of the GTA section—supposedly a collection of news reports concerning the Greater Toronto Area. This story was headlined: Anti-casino forces like odds. The subhead went on to explain: Survey of city councillors shows few support efforts to bring gambling facility to Toronto.

Welcome to the Toronto Star’s version of responsible journalism. This article says 21 of Toronto’s 45-member city council were interviewed. It seems that of the 21 interviewed, 11 of them were opposed to a downtown casino or were leaning that way. Somehow half of the councillors surveyed approved of a casino at Woodbine. You would normally blame the writer for such a confused story but, in this case, the blame should be shared with the headline writer and the editor responsible.

The objective of the story was obviously to promote a new “No Casino Toronto” organization. To quote the Star, this is a group that has grown from three concerned women to “a citywide, social media-savvy force.” It has already spent $3200 and is spending more to hand out 1000 lawn signs. And if the Toronto Star had not reported this, nobody would have noticed.

The group should probably not waste any more money. Their friends at the Toronto Star have much deeper pockets and are going to do their best to torpedo any downtown casino. Besides, the group reports that they have had a recent surge of activity on their Facebook site and Twitter account. They think they have turned the corner. They believe that their warnings of inflated benefits, and social and economic ills can defeat the casino “Goliaths.” Obviously this negative group are contributing no new knowledge to the discussion and are just repeating the same old unfounded claims of the poor working man being duped of his hard-earned wages. They obviously know nothing about gambling’s contribution in the entertainment industry or anything about the fun of gambling.

They think they are opposing large industry behemoths that are out to rape and pillage on their city streets. They appear totally ignorant of the illegal gambling in Toronto and the criminal element that this activity supports. They should take the time to find out more about what they are talking about. And so should the Toronto Star.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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Toronto Star ramps up the casino war.

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

The Toronto Star has something against casinos. What started as a bias in news reporting is now a constant editorial diatribe. In a lengthy editorial Friday, the paper suggested that a vote on a new mayor of Toronto could include a referendum on a casino. The editorial suggested that a $7 million by-election for mayor could be justified by including this referendum. It is likely that the Star was a bit disappointed with the announcement by the court that Rob Ford could stay in office.

The only problem with the Star’s proposal is that a referendum on a casino would be meaningless. Nobody really cares if a majority of Torontonian’s want a casino or not. It is not their decision to make. Ontario Lottery and Gaming did say that they did not want to put a casino in a municipality that did not want one. They were just being polite. They can put casinos pretty well anywhere they want in Ontario.

Is it illegal to have a casino in Toronto? No it is not. That decision has already been made by the Province. Is it a zoning problem? If it does become a zoning problem, it has to be dealt with by city council—subject to being overturned by the Ontario Municipal Board. Sorry folks, the question as to whether you are for or against having a casino is irrelevant.

And frankly, after listening to and reading the comments of many hundreds of people who do not want a casino in their backyard, you find that the ignorance on the subject is appalling. This is like arguing over a neighbourhood restaurant in the plaza at the corner. If the Italian restaurant there has gone out of business, you do not get a vote on whether a Tex-Mex restaurant can move in. It makes no difference if Tex-Mex food gives you heartburn. You do not have to go to that restaurant.

You probably feel that you are very lucky to live in our democracy. That does not mean that the majority can tell everyone else what they can or cannot do. Democracy means that the people rule but they rule best by respecting the rights of others. Our Charter of Rights makes that point well. The Toronto Star editorial people need to catch up on it.

We fondly remember the days when the Toronto Star was the voice of liberalism in Toronto. It cared about people. It cared about the important issues. It stood up for individual rights. It fought bigotry. It mattered.

Today the Toronto Star appears to be just another cog in an unfeeling corporate machine. It seems it is nothing but a profit centre in a rough, tough media world. It certainly needs better editorial direction. The Star used to be a pretty good newspaper.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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