Who would have thought of the Rotman School of Management promoting a prurient position? The director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School writes in the Toronto Star the other day that a casino in Toronto would be a “costly, socially destructive boondoggle.” Instead of offering serious economic studies to make his case, the author tells us of the supposed glitz, tackiness, misery and crime that goes with casinos. This is hardly a very scholarly approach to the question.
We can assure the writer that to not build a casino in Toronto is more socially destructive than he seems to understand. Maybe if he knew of the scope and conditions of the illegal casinos that are operating in the Toronto area and the criminality that these operations generate, he would have a far greater appreciation of the need for legal outlets. And to suggest that a casino is a boondoggle—a waste of time and money—could only be made by someone with no idea of what is involved.
The writer needs to understand that Toronto is a major tourist destination. The city attracts visitors from around the world. The city is a year-round convention location. That is why Toronto is also a very successful North American entertainment centre. It is a major league sports town and a world class business and financial centre. To not have a casino is to degrade us in the eyes of sophisticated tourists and business visitors.
To be fair to the writer, he did make one statement with which many experts agree. He said that building casinos “in an already thriving downtown, is a truly terrible idea.” The best example of this is the bad planning that put a young adult ‘entertainment district’ in the John and Richmond Street area in Toronto. It attracts the wrong crowd, at the wrong times in an area that did not need that much more traffic.
What the writer does not seem to understand is that casinos are an entertainment venue. You go there to be entertained. Most of us, who go to casinos, go to have fun. That money you lay on a craps table or stuff in a slot is part of your cost. The few people who win get some added fun. Humans have been gambling since the dawn of time and only the foolish and prurient think they can stop it.
The Rotman School writer also seems concerned that some people want to turn Ontario Place into a casino. That is a very bad idea for the wrong location. Ontario Place works as a family entertainment area. A casino might be a viable tenant at the west end of the Exhibition grounds if other year-round entertainment besides Medieval Times can also be located there. It is not ideal but, at least, there is good access.
The best location in all of Metropolitan Toronto for a casino is probably Woodbine Racetrack. The track is already in the entertainment business. The operators clearly understand that good food, services, excitement and entertainment are part of the glamour and attraction of a full-scale casino.
But Woodbine is not the only location. The Greater Toronto area can probably sustain as many as four casinos if the proper mix of entertainment and tourist attractions are included. And as managers for these casinos, there might even be some spots for Rotman School of Management graduates.
Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry
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