Toronto casino could come up aces for Mississauga businesses

Mississauga’s waterfront may not be the likely home for a new casino, but the area’s hospitality industry could benefit from a gaming hot spot in downtown Toronto.

Toronto City Council’s hotly contested casino negotiations could lead to an opportunity for increased business traffic in Mississauga, says the president and CEO of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association.

“If you fill downtown, the outskirts will fill out,” Tony Elenis told YourMississaugaBiz.com. “This is a success model for major cities.”

Elenis would like to see Toronto go even further and consider a new, massive convention centre, which he believes would also boost business around the GTA.

According to Elenis, spillover from smaller conventions that still wanted to book during the major convention time period would go to places like the International Centre, the Congress Centre and some of the larger hotel-type convention spaces near Pearson and in Brampton.

The dramatic increase in capacity for conventions in the GTA would be incredibly lucrative for restaurants and other businesses. Elenis said on average, a convention attendee spends approximately $300 more per trip than someone travelling on business.

Having previously managed the Holiday Inn Select on Dixon Road for 10 years, Elenis said the hotels around Pearson International Airport used to be very busy but have suffered from a decline in tourism.

He believes a Toronto casino and convention centre would breathe new life into the hospitality industry there, even if it comes in the form of spillover from downtown events.

Mississauga Ward 5 City Councillor Bonnie Crombie says no matter where the final casino location is, the reality of how many long-term jobs it will create and how it will impact other businesses remains a gamble.

She said the revenue estimates she’s seen are now about half or what was originally described. “Originally it was $160 million, $170 million and now it’s $80 million, maybe $50 million to the city,” she said.

The project’s long-term job creation is also in question. “Are they high-level jobs? Are they value-added jobs?” Crombie asked, citing the actual and social costs that would be incurred.

And while the city would benefit from an initial boom in construction jobs, Crombie said those wouldn’t last very long. “And then you’re left with black jack dealers,” she said.

Elenis agrees that more research needs to be done, particularly on whether a casino would have a positive impact on restaurants. He says without further study the association can’t pin its hopes on a downtown project, but he remains optimistic about its possible impact on Mississauga.

“I could also see new builds as a result of it,” he said with a laugh. “If you get enough business out, then more hotels can come in. And competition grows as well, which is healthy.”

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