TORONTO – Gerry Schwartz and his mega Onex Corp. have now made public a desire to build a new five-star casino resort.
But would it be built in Toronto?
Or somewhere in the 905 region?
A hint may have been offered by who he has hired as his key lobbyist.
The fact that Schwartz, who operates the Tropicana Casino in Las Vegas, has hired a high profile former Toronto city councillor who is a vehemently opposed to a downtown casino has sent a message of what direction he may be considering.
“Onex is scouting out locations all across the GTA,” confirmed former Toronto city councillor Kyle Rae who, through his PQR Solutions firm, is Onex’s registered lobbyist at city hall.
However, several sources say, his primary location would be a piece of land in Markham and Rae was hired to help ensure the deal to have one built in downtown does not happen.
“Be careful what you wish for,” Rae said his message will be to Toronto councillors. “Think of the impact it will have and also take a look at the bottom line of the Sands and MGM too.”
He cited a casino project in Madrid which has also had difficulty getting approval for downtown.
So far, Rae said, he has spoken to Councillors Adam Vaughan, Shelley Carroll, Mike Layton and Janet Davis and he plans to speak with more in the coming days.
In essence Rae has been hired what is known in gaming circles as “a cooler.”
But he says while “I would not be in favour of” Onex building a downtown location, he is not opposed to one being built in another part of the Toronto.
Rae, who was retained to lobby on behalf of Onex two weeks ago, said “such a resort should not be in the city centre but belongs in the suburbs.”
But which suburb?
Onex, said Rae, will reveal it’s ideas very soon.
“They will be ready to present a report in the next two weeks,” he said.
That Rae has been retained as a spoiler for Toronto has upset some inside the OLG, sources said.
“Some in the OLG are livid about this,” said an insider. “They don’t like the fact that Onex has brought in a person to shoot down Toronto when that’s where so many people would like it to end up.”
Added the source: “The people crunching the numbers at the OLG feel the best return for the province and the city is in Toronto whether it will be at the convention centre or the other sites like Woodbine, the CNE or the Port Lands.”
So far the only known project proposal was a $3-billion one at the convention centre which would see a whole revitalization of the area.
Rae said the “traffic” alone it would cause needs to be a consideration of councillors deciding on it.
The end game here for Schwartz is to locate a massive entertainment complex in Markham, sources tell the Toronto Sun.
“(That) is one consideration but there are others,” Rae said, adding that Onex “has other people on retainer” as well for other potential locations for a casino.
Rae wouldn’t say how much his retainer is to represent billionaire Schwartz but he said it’s “nowhere near” the $20,000 a month as some have suggested.