Nevada's largest casino companies are about to bet the house on Toronto.
A single integrated resort complex in the heart of Canada's largest city could be worth billions in annual revenue to whichever casino operator wins a heated bidding process for the gaming license.
Of course, there has to be a competition.
Toronto and its residents have the final say on the Ontario Lottery Commission's proposal to locate the casino in the metropolitan market.
One observer speculated Toronto has "no better than" a 50-50 chance of approving a casino.
Who would make such a prediction?
MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren.
Murren, whose company has placed itself square in the middle of Toronto's gaming debate, made those remarks on a Canadian television news show.
A day later, Murren addressed the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto, telling the group a casino will happen in Ontario. MGM Resorts wants to be the builder and operator.
"If it doesn't happen here, there will be one somewhere in Ontario," he told the Toronto Star during a news conference after the speech. "Our preference and the Ontario Lottery Commission's preference is to be in Toronto."
MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment Inc. and Las Vegas Sands Corp. view Toronto and its 2.6 million residents as an untapped gaming market.
The city is also an international tourist destination, welcoming almost 10 million annual visitors from other Canadian cities, the U.S. and foreign markets.
Murren told the Economic Club that MGM Resorts would invest $2 billion to $4 billion on a resort complex that "would employ thousands of people."
During the Canadian visit, MGM Resorts announced a partnership with Cadillac Fairview Corporation Ltd., a Canadian real estate developer to bid on, build and operate a hotel-casino complex.
Murren said the 50/50 joint venture gives MGM Resorts a partner with extensive Canadian development experience.
"In Cadillac Fairview, we are partnering with the industry leader in developing high-quality properties across North America and a company with whom we share a common vision for the development of an iconic integrated resort in Toronto," Murren said.
MGM Resorts' preliminary design and scope for the project include a permanent Toronto Cirque du Soleil attraction as well as a partnership with a noted Toronto restaurateur to develop dining concepts for the integrated resort.
"The city of Toronto staff report has identified how such a project will create thousands of jobs, contribute much-needed revenue to the city and provide Toronto with an iconic landmark to attract millions of tourists," Cadillac Fairview CEO John Sullivan said.
Murren told the Economic Club that the company was kicking up its public relations efforts in Toronto, saying MGM Resorts has spent two years studying the market.
"We've been under the radar for a bit because we've been listening," Murren said. "We won't do anything people don't want us to do."
MGM Resorts knows it has competition.
Las Vegas Sands President Michael Leven addressed the Economic Club a week after Murren. He gave the group a pitch on the company's experience in building resorts that include hotels, restaurants, retail, convention and meeting facilities, as well as a casino.
Leven said casinos at Las Vegas Sands developments in Singapore and Macau "usually comprise" 5 percent of the total development.
"I can remember when Toronto was one of the top destinations for conventions and meetings," Leven told the Toronto Star. He said hotel industry contacts told him a shortage of major facilities is holding Toronto back.
"What we put in downtown Toronto is more people, more visitors, more conventions, more leisure and more fun -- the casino is a part, but it's not the only part," Leven said.
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