CNW Group/OLG Winners
Paul Godfrey. Gotta love the, um, balls on the guy.
Who else would have the nerve to try and sell the good citizens of Toronto on a Las Vegas-style casino as a once in a lifetime opportunity, after the tens of millions he saddled taxpayers with on that SkyDome venture all those years ago?
Godfrey still loves playing God, it seems.
Seasoned business folk like him usually mellow with age, turn their attentions to cementing their legacy with feel-good projects. Not Godfrey. He's out to make one more big deal.
Maybe hanging with all those fast-talking characters in the gambling, sorry gaming, biz in his role as Ontario Lottery and Gaming kingpin has messed with his sense of priorities (self?). He should probably be spending a little more time trying to get Post Media, his other fulltime gig, out of the red. But I digress.
If we're to take anything from his breakfast speech in front of the city's big biz elite at the Board of Trade Friday, September 21, it's that Godfrey still thinks he's all that in this town. That he can still bully Toronto council into bad decisions, like he did when he was Metro chair, just so his big buck friends can make a killing building Taj Mahals.
That "take it or leave" business where a Toronto casino is concerned sure sounded like a threat. Yes. If Toronto decides it doesn't want a casino, well, there will be hell to pay, he warned. Not in those words, exactly.
But clearly Godfrey was trying to guilt-trip naysayers by suggesting the city would be missing out on a couple of billion dollars in investment and 12,000 "good-paying" jobs should our civic leaders decide to say no when the matter comes up for debate in a few weeks time. If that wasn't enough, Godfrey imposed a deadline.
The day before his BoT speech, OLG issued an open letter to Toronto councillors making sure they know that OLG "has earned the highest level of certification from the World Lottery Association for our robust ad innovative Responsible Gambling Program." Just in case, of course, a few among them are disturbed, as they should be, by the fact the bulk of revenue from gambling comes from problem gamblers.
Still, there were a few among the crowd at the BoT breakfast, eager to echo Godfrey's sentiments for the cameras, in the event anyone was left with the wrong impression that this casino plan is all about making Godfrey's friends richer.
Among the cheerleaders was an official from MGM, the Vegas outfit that's been sniffing around town like a dog in heat ever since talk of a casino started. And a celebrity chef who suggested Toronto "needs" a casino. How's that for turning up the heat?
Yup. If we don't sign on the dotted line pronto, then there's nothing to save our fair city from certain economic collapse.
But wait. It's not a casino after all that Godfrey's talking about. It's an "entertainment complex" with shops and restaurants and other attractions fit for high rollers.
As if to ameliorate the oh-so-Victorian sensibilities of scaredy-cats among us, Godfrey made special effort to note that the casino, entertainment complex, den of iniquity, whatever you want to call it, would take up less than 10 per cent of any proposed development.
He offered the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore for comparative purposes. Well, that joint sits on a 20 hectare plot and boasts 500 tables and 1,600 slot machines, so...
No. Godfrey's not going to ram this thing down Toronto's throats. It's a "once in a generation opportunity," better than Christmas, because that only comes once a year. Well, then, why doesn't Godfrey just offer it to the 33 other municipalities that have already told OLG they'd gladly take a casino?
Ah. There's the rub. For all of Godfrey's threats that he'd take his casino plans somewhere else if the Big Smoke doesn't want it is, well, all smoke. The folks behind the scenes with the big bucks don't want a casino anywhere else but Toronto.
On that nasty business the wheels have been turning behind the scenes for months. Yes, that was a high-priced lobbyist for MGM accompanying the mayor on his recent trade trip to Chicago.
But I must be among those in the media "still stuck in the mythologies of the Bugsy Siegel days," as Godfrey put it, when it comes to gambling's alleged connections to slippery business.
We must have all been imagining, then, the visit Sheldon Adelson, the money bags behind the Singapore Sands that Godfrey held up as a model for T.O., paid the mayor a few weeks back.
We should also all probably ignore the fact Adelson is currently being investigated by the U.S. Attorney General's office for alleged money-laundering. After all, there's big money to be made. Sir Paul says so.