By Jonah Brunet
Casino wars are raging in Toronto and industry executives are bringing the battle to Ryerson.
In an effort to establish a pillar of support on campus, casino executives visited the Ted Rogers School of Management on March 12, boasting big potential for students’ careers in the hospitality industry.
The executives have since said they would be back to Ryerson should their resort visions be realized.
“If [the companies] were granted the opportunity, they would be coming to the hospitality program at Ryerson looking for employees,” said Paul Burns, vice-president of the Canadian Gaming Association and moderator of the casino executives’ presentation. “They see the value in building relationships with those kinds of programs.”
Randy Morton, president of MGM’s Bellagio hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Kevin Laforet, president of Caesars Windsor, and Todd Mc Carty, chief of human resources at Las Vegas Sands Corporation, delivered their presentation to a group of about 80 students from Ryerson and George Brown College.
“[The students had] a lot of good questions. They ranged from careers in the gaming industry, talking about the industry itself, and then asking about the corporate responsibility of the different companies, whether it be on an environmental side or being good community partners,” Laforet said.
The companies are currently competing for community approval to build a resort and casino in downtown Toronto.
MGM has unveiled its vision for a resort and casino at Exhibition Place, an ambitious proposal that would require partnership with the Canadian National Exhibition Association, the TTC and GO Transit.
Las Vegas Sands and Caesars, on the other hand, have their sights set on the Oxford Place development on Front Street.
Opponents of MGM’s proposal have expressed skepticism about Morton’s promise of 10,000 new jobs with an average salary of $60,000, a figure he presented to about 25 Ryerson hospitality students at last Tuesday’s information session.
Ryerson President Sheldon Levy cautioned that students and community members reined into the casino debate should remember that the company representatives are
“selling a product” as they engage students about the job market.
“I think most of us – and I would hope all of us – can differentiate quality information from advocacy positions,” Levy said.
Opposition to a Toronto casino highlights concerns of harm to local businesses and gambling addiction.
Levy’s concern revolves around whether Toronto’s infrastructure can handle the influx of visitors a downtown casino could provide.
Levy also said he has been approached and encouraged by members of the community, whom he declined to name, to publicly take a stance against a casino development.
But concerns haven’t stemmed the flow of student interest in potential job opportunities at a casino.
“I’m already talking regularly with a lot of the students,” Morton said. “They’ve emailed me asking questions about their career [and] how can I help mentor them.” Laforet also spoke in defence of a resort and casino in Toronto, emphasizing that a casino wouldn’t just benefit recent graduates.
“It’s good for everybody, it doesn’t try to take business away from somewhere.
The goal is to help all of the businesses in the area,” he said.
The council vote is expected to take place in the first week of May.