First Nation “appalled” by news about new Toronto casino

March 10, 2023 2:01 PM
Photo: Great Canadian Entertainment (courtesy)
  • Mark Keast, CDC Gaming Reports
March 10, 2023 2:01 PM

Count the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation (MSIFN) as those opposed to the announcement earlier this week that Toronto will be getting a new $1 billion mega casino this summer.

Great Canadian Casino Resort Toronto will be located adjacent to Woodbine Racetrack at the intersections of Highways 401 and 427, a short drive from the downtown core of Canada’s biggest city, and will feature a modern Vegas-style casino with 4,800 slot machines and 145 table games, a 400-room hotel, multiple dining options, and a 5,000-seat live entertainment venue. The development includes a major expansion of the existing casino, as well as pool, spa, and retail facilities integrated with the existing racetrack operations.

The existing Casino Woodbine will continue to operate until the new resort makes its debut.

The MSIFN tribe is “outraged” and “appalled” at what they say is the “disrespect shown to their First Nation by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and Great Canadian Entertainment.”

MSIFN is in a legal dispute with the Ontario government over the rollout of regulated gaming in the province.

GCE operates Casino Woodbine, as well as the Great Blue Heron Casino, owned by MSIFN.

According to a news release issued by MSIFN, in 2016, MSIFN, as the owner of the Great Blue Heron Casino, entered into agreements with the government and OLG, as part of Ontario’s modernization scheme. The agreements, in part, were meant to ensure that the Great Blue Heron Casino would be operated in a manner comparative to other government casinos in the GTA and revenue would be provided to MSIFN to support development and services for the First Nation, including the provision of clean drinking water in the community.

According to OLG, in February, MSIFN was paid $841,199 from the Municipality Contribution Agreement, which dictates that the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission provide revenue to municipalities that host physical gaming sites. The City of Toronto, as host municipality of Casino Woodbine, was paid $6,324,672 last quarter.

The last quarter went from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2022.

“We entered into our agreements with OLG and the government with a shared understanding that OLG and the government would act in good faith and in accordance with their Honour of the Crown obligations, and in particular their contractual obligations set out in the agreements,” said MSIFN’s chief Kelly LaRocca. “Once again, the government is acting without any engagement with MSIFN and is acting to disadvantage the Great Blue Heron Casino at MSIFN.

“We’ve been engaging with the government, OLG, and Great Canadian Entertainment on these issues for years and finally we’ve reached the point of entering mediation in the coming months,” she said. “Once again, however, the [Premier Doug] Ford government chooses to implement its decisions and ask questions later. It’s utter disregard for our First Nation and the Honour of the Crown. We continue to focus our good faith efforts on the mediation and will brace for whatever comes next.”