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Toronto casino project that drew Nevada interest appears dead

A downtown Toronto resort complex that attracted the interest of Nevada’s largest casino operators appeared dead Friday after the city’s mayor canceled a vote scheduled for next week on the multi-billion dollar development.

In a City Hall news conference Thursday, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, the key backer of a single hotel-casino complex, said he was halting the planned vote, which many analysts had predicted would go against the gaming development.

Gaming giants MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment Corp., Las Vegas Sands Corp., and Wynn Resorts Ltd., had all expressed interest in building and operating the downtown Toronto integrated resort complex.

The companies all committed development money to the effort and representatives all traveled to Toronto to pitch their ideas and meet with city and province officials.

Caesars Entertainment had proposed a casino and resort development along Front Street. Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Jan Jones said the company’s project would have created more than 10,000 jobs and would have been a catalyst for redeveloping the city’s convention center.

“We are clearly disappointed with the current state of affairs in Toronto,” Jones said. “It is clear that Toronto City Council cannot find a path to seeing this vision realized. We’re disappointed, but moving on.”

The casino operators proposed a Las Vegas-style complex — each pushed a different city location — with a large hotel, casino, restaurants, retail, convention space and other amenities.

MGM Resorts had a 50-50 joint venture partnership with The Cadillac Fairview Corp. Ltd. of Canada on a project on the grounds of Exhibition Place. The development included a 1,200-room hotel and 250,000-square-foot-casino.

The International Gaming Institute from UNLV completed a series of studies on the Toronto casino project and its economic impact for the Canadian Gaming Association.

Toronto is Canada’s largest city and analysts touted the revenue-producing potential of the single resort complex along with the job creation.

Ford accused Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne of “playing games” by not committing to a hosting fee of at least $100 million a year for Toronto. According to CTVNews.com, Toronto would receive $53.7 million a year in hosting fees.

The proposed casino development could now be moved to an area outside Metropolitan Toronto.

Jones said Caesars is interested in other opportunities in Ontario.

“Over 25 cities and towns across Ontario have expressed interest in being a willing casino host,” Jones said.

However, Canadian media said the sudden resignation Thursday of Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. Chairman Paul Godfrey calls into question the agency’s entire $1.3 billion gambling expansion plan.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

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