MGM Resorts International
The play: "Integrated resort" at Exhibition Place with a permanent home for Cirque du Soleil.
Big-bucks backers: Cadillac Fairview, the developer known for prized real estate holdings, including the Eaton Centre and TD Centre. Not so widely known: Cadillac Fairview is wholly owned by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, which is supposed to have a policy on ethical investment. So much for that.
Behind the scenes: Besides the veritable army of pitchmen from Liberal-connected PR firm Sussex Strategy Group, MGM has Robert Prichard, chair of Torys LLP, in its fold - perhaps the city's most influential power broker - advising on how to jump through the legal hoops to get a casino approved.
Lost in the shuffle: The company's point man on the casino file at City Hall, Jamie Besner, VP municipal affairs at Sussex, was part of that Chi-Town trade mission with the mayor at which Sussex ended up cutting a deal with former Ford chief of staff Nick Kouvalis to massage public opinion on the casino question for MGM. More famously, Besner was also at the Thompson Hotel, in the bar with rookie councillor Ana Bailão, a swing vote on the casino issue, in the hours before she was pulled over by the cops for driving with three times the legal limit of booze in her system.
Real deal: MGM is a big money loser. The casino operator reported a fourth-quarter loss of $1.2 billion in February.
The play: The multibillion-dollar empire that Gerry Schwartz built has dispatched former councillor Kyle Rae to sell the yarn that it's interested in building a casino not in Toronto, if you can believe that, but in the GTA, maybe Markham, although that city's council has said no to a casino.
Big-bucks backers: Has its fingers in many pies, including military hardware and private health care in the U.S. - not to mention Tropicana Las Vegas and a few casinos in western Canada.
Behind the scenes: Some high-priced lobbying help to not make its case for a Toronto casino, including government relations guru David MacNaughton, chair of Strategy Corp. and former adviser and principal secretary to premier Dalton McGuinty; and long-time Liberal player John Duffy, who recently ran Infrastructure Minister Glen Murray's failed bid for the Liberal leadership.
Lost in the shuffle: Onex's MGM and Caesars connections. MGM's former head of gambling operations, Alex Yemenidjian, runs Onex's Tropicana casino. Michael Koep, Onex Real Estate's director of development, oversaw Caesars' construction of its $430 million waterfront casino and racetrack in Chester, Pennsylvania, in his former life as director of development with the U.S.-based Flynn Company. The aforementioned Robert Prichard is also on Onex's board.
Real deal: Hasn't shut the door completely on a Toronto casino. If that were the case, Rae wouldn't be spending all his time lobbying lefties on council - who need no convincing on their opposition to a downtown casino.
Las Vegas Sands Corp
The play: Wants to build at the Metro Convention Centre, or so Sands exec Michael Leven told the Economic Club of Canada in January.
Big-bucks backers: Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino and hotel magnate who owns Sands, almost bought Mitt Romney the presidency. What's a few billion more for a Toronto casino?
Behind the scenes: May be looking to partner with OMERS, the Ontario municipal employees' pension fund, which owns the Metro Convention Centre through its real estate arm, Oxford Properties. Oxford floated that $3 billion monstrosity of a plan for the Front Street corridor a few months back.
Lost in the shuffle: The sleeper to watch in the casino sweepstakes. Sands been less visible than some of the other Sin City players, but Adelson is a win-at-all-costs kind of guy. He was quick to get a rare face-to-face meeting with the mayor and his top advisers when he rolled into town unannounced last summer. Has former Liberal cabinet minister David Caplan, who recently backed Kathleen Wynne for the Liberal leadership, among the coterie of lobbyists doing the company's bidding here.
Real deal: A big PR problem: Sands is currently being investigated by the U.S. attorney general's office for failing to alert authorities to two questionable money transfers to its casinos: one from a Mexican businessman indicted on drug charges, another from a California exec convicted of taking kickbacks from casino vendors. Adelson is reportedly in talks with U.S. authorities to drop the investigation and pay a fine.
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment
The play: The sports mega-company's chair of the board, Larry Tanenbaum, announced he's hot on a Toronto casino last summer.
Big-bucks backers: The way Tanenbaum has been talking, Rogers and Bell, which now own most of MLSE, don't seem to need any convincing to ante up for a casino.
Behind the scenes: Tanenbaum's connections to Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation chair Paul Godfrey go way back. The two were part of the cabal that used to run the city when a guy named Mel Lastman was mayor. See the $150-million reno of Union Station that fell through under a cloud of controversy.
Lost in the shuffle: Tanenbaum's long-time interest in the gambling biz. His holding company, Kilmer Group, until recently held a significant interest in Boardwalk Gaming and Entertainment, which operates six bingo centres in Ontario. The former president and CEO of Boardwalk, Jordan Gnat, is now a managing director of Scientific Games, "a global leader in providing customized, end-to-end gaming solutions to lottery and gaming organizations worldwide."
Real deal: Still looking for a willing partner. Has Etobicoke boy John Capobianco of Fleishman-Hillard, a former adviser to two Harris-era cabinet ministers, pumping the cause in the corridors of power at Queen's Park. Capobianco boasts one of the biggest Rolodexes in the lobbying biz - and close ties to Rob Ford chief of staff Mark Towhey.
The play: Has joined forces with Detroit-based Rock Gaming, with which it co-owns two Ohio casinos, to stake a claim to the Metro Convention Centre site.
Big-bucks backers: Operates casinos on four continents and is selling the fact that it was first among U.S. operators in Canada when it opened Caesars Windsor back in the early 90s.
Behind the scenes: Has former councillor Paul Sutherland, of Sutherland & Associates, lobbying at City Hall. His is one of several boutique lobbying outfits that all of a sudden got larger when Las Vegas money men started flocking to town looking for pitchmen. See the hiring of former Rob Ford crony and EA Andrew Pask by Sutherland. Pask left the mayor's office after a dust-up with former Ford chief of staff Nick Kouvalis. (There's that name again.)
Lost in the shuffle: Caesar's expressed early interest in Exhibition Place and Ontario Place as possible sites for a casino.
Real deal: Running out of leverage and looking for big markets to shore up financial losses. Looking to get into the online gambling market after reporting a net loss of $469 million for the fourth quarter of 2012, more than double last year's at the same time.
Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation
The play: So-called "modernization" of the gambling industry that started all the talk of a Toronto casino.
Big-bucks backers: Who needs backers - although there's no shortage from the taxpayers' till - when you're a Crown corp and have been given a licence to privatize gambling by Queen's Park?
Behind the scenes: Paul Godfrey's appointment as chair of OLG back in 2010 raised a few eyebrows, but it was a convenient choice for the Libs, who needed his conservative political currency to deflect PC criticism of the Crown corporation after a series of scandals, including one over the expense accounts of fat-cat OLG execs.
Lost in the shuffle: Why a guy presumably busy running the Postmedia empire was willing to play dupe for his political enemies. Turns out Godfrey had one more big deal in mind. Has been strangely quiet since he told the Post, in an unguarded moment, that he wouldn't want a casino in his neighbourhood.
Real deal: Looks like another lost cause for Godfrey, despite OLG's breaking the bank with a slick multimillion-dollar advertising blitzkrieg in the lead-up to council's casino vote. Is the new Lib government - committed to mending relations with rural Ontario - really going to let the horse racing industry die so Godfrey's buddies can put more slot machines in their casinos?