Insight: Toronto’s Largest Neighbourhood … and Casinos

Large city centres are often the locations of regional entertainment centers; theatre districts, restaurants, hotels and other cultural attractions. Numerous cities, in an attempt to either revive or continue growth within the core, are attempting to develop major entertainment attractions such as a museum or professional sports stadium, in the hopes that it increases investment and tourism within the core. Additionally, many cities are largely focused on increasing the residential component of their downtown cores – filling the “hole” in their “donut”. The building of an adult entertainment venue – a casino – within a city’s center has also been suggested as an economic imperative. Unlike museums and stadia, a casino could negatively impact the residential attractiveness of the downtown core. Paul Godfrey, the head of Ontario Lottery and Gaming, recently said of a casino, “I wouldn’t want it in my neighbourhood, but at the same time you’re not putting it in a residential area.”1

Toronto is currently debating the creation of a casino (and adjoining mega-resort) within the city’s downtown. Proponents for the casino have recently cited job creation (both from construction and operation), increases in tax revenues, and increasing tourism as reasons for why a casino is a unique opportunity for the city. Unfortunately, much of the data that has been released to prove these claims has been remarkably skewed and delivered in a misleading manner. In order to provide people with a broader sense of the implications that the creation of a casino within Toronto’s core may have, the Martin Prosperity Institute recently released the following report, “The Economic “Impact” of a Downtown Casino in Toronto“. The report examines the questions surrounding the economic impacts of a downtown casino, focussing mainly on three areas: jobs, neighbourhoods and the city. This Insight will focus on the neighbourhood section of the report, which argues that Toronto is currently experiencing excellent residential growth and concentration within the core.

Arguments in favour of building a casino-resort in Toronto’s downtown include that it would spur growth within the core. What has been mostly absent from the discussion is that Toronto is already experiencing substantial residential growth within the downtown, as more people are moving to the city than the surrounding 905. As Doug Ford recently stated about Toronto, “people know it’s a happening place, we’ve created an environment to attract people from all over the world, not only to invest in our city but to live in our city”2. This has recently resulted in Toronto overtaking Chicago as the fourth most populated city in North America. The City has created a livable downtown with numerous amenities that have made residential developments within the core so successful. Exhibit 1 displays the 2011 population for the City of Toronto, by census tract. Shown within Exhibit 1, is that despite large populations in the surrounding areas of the city, the greatest number of people live within the downtown core
and the surrounding communities.

Exhibit 1: Toronto population by census tract (2011)

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Exhibit 2: Toronto population growth by census tract (2006-2011)

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Exhibit 2 shows the population growth within the City of Toronto by census tract from 2006–2011. Exhibit 2 demonstrates that not only does the greatest number of people live within the core, but also within the last five years, the greatest population growth within the entire city has been within the downtown. Downtown Toronto has become an attractive place to live and work for families and single residents as the city provides safe, livable, and walkable downtown neighbourhoods. Toronto has already created a great formula within its core to attract residential growth at a greater rate than most cities, and existing academic research shows that a casino would most likely have a negative impact on downtown residents. A casino could pose a host of issues that might change the current fabric of Toronto’s downtown core, while the impact on the nearby surrounding vibrant communities continues to be unknown. Toronto has a successfully growing downtown core and is home to the largest and fastest growing residential areas of the city. Any discussion of downtown development needs to consider the impact on the residents and neighbourhoods of downtown Toronto.

To read the entire report on the potential impacts of a downtown casino on the city of Toronto, along with summary of the peer-reviewed academic literature regarding the economic impact of casinos, click to download below:

Download this Insight (PDF)

Download the Report: The Economic “Impact” of a Downtown Casino in Toronto (PDF)

The Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto‘s Rotman School of Management is the world’s leading think-tank on the role of sub-national factors — location, place and city-regions — in global economic prosperity. We take an integrated view of prosperity, looking beyond economic measures to include the importance of quality of place and the development of people’s creative potential.