Toronto casino deal may have finally iced long-planned downtown integrated resortBy Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming ReportsAugust 11, 2017 at 9:12 amFive years ago, Las Vegas gaming executives were spending more time in Toronto than hardcore Maple Leafs fans.The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG) was considering approval of a single hotel-casino complex in Canada’s largest city, a facility that experts predicted would produce an estimated $1 billion CDN a year in gaming revenue.Casino company leaders became well acquainted with Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Airport. Alan Feldman of MGM Resorts International and Jan Jones Blackhurst of Caesars Entertainment actually bumped into each other one morning at Toronto’s City Hall. Both had scheduled meetings with the mayor.Toronto’s downtown integrated resort plan, however, never made it past the blue line.Fast forward to Aug. 8 of this year, and casino gaming in the Toronto again took center ice. However, Las Vegas casino operators found themselves stranded on the frozen Canadian tundra.A partnership between British Columbia-based Great Canadian Gaming Corp. and Brookfield Asset Management of Toronto was the winning bidder on a 22-year contract to manage three Toronto-area casino sites currently operated by the OLG.Caesars, Connecticut’s Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment, and Malaysia-based Genting – owner of Resorts World New York and the yet-to-be-built Resorts World Las Vegas – were also in on the bidding.In the end, the consortium dubbed “Made in Canada” took home the trophy.The idea of a downtown Toronto integrated resort may never leave the bench.Great Canadian-Brookfield will focus on the three existing gaming sites, which generated more than $1 billion CDN in gaming revenue last year. The properties – Woodbine Racetrack, Ajax Downs Racetrack and the Great Blue Heron Casino – encompass more than 4,000 slot machines, 60 table games and employ 2,200 workers.Initially, the consortium wants to convert the slot machine-only casino at Woodbine into a Las Vegas style integrated resort. Brookfield Business Partners CEO Cyrus Madon told Bloomberg News the group could invest some $1 billion (Canadian) over the next two decades into the casinos. Plans include additional gaming space, hotel rooms, conference facilities and entertainment attractions.“The market is currently underserved, so there is pretty strong growth potential there,” Madon said.The focus and scope of the investment on the current casinos may entomb a downtown Toronto integrated resort. Five years ago, the project was heralded as a way to stimulate the city’s economy. A study by UNLV’s International Gaming Institute found the resort would be an economic boon and spur new tourism markets.Five years ago, city leaders were following the “Singapore model,” where gaming was limited to a small portion of the resort and was over-shadowed by other means of entertainment, including a theme park, retail, entertainment, and dining. The idea was to drive foreign tourism.Toronto Mayor John Tory, who wasn’t in office five years ago, said the city wants to see what Great Canadian-Brookfield plans are for Woodbine, which is located near the international airport. The mayor didn’t mention the once-planned downtown project in his statement.Meanwhile, 2,100 miles to the west, eyes are on the opening this fall of Parq Vancouver, a $490 million (U.S.) casino-hotel-entertainment complex. It’s billed as the largest private development in the province.Built and operated by Las Vegas-based Paragon Gaming, the resort has 517 hotel rooms, eight restaurants and bars, and is attached BC Place, a 54,000-seat stadium. Parq Vancouver’s casino will encompass 600 slot machines, 75 table games, a high-limit gaming floor and 11 private gambling salons.Bloomberg Business Magazine teased the property as “North America’s most fun business hotel.” An executive with Tourism Vancouver said the new resort will add to the city’s booming travel market, which saw 10 million visitors in 2016.Success at Parq Vancouver might make Toronto take a slap shot on downtown again.Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.