A Tale of Two Casinos: Unequal Spaces of Local Governance

Research output: Working paper


Local actors, including resident and business associations, do not simply influence decision-makers, but can also reshape the purportedly neutral governance model within which decision-making takes place. In big cities like Toronto, this reshaping exacerbates the existing geographic and socio-economic unevenness. The work of James Scott, Mariana Valverde, and Cheryl Teelucksingh helps to explain how local actors interface with seemingly neutral governance bodies to have their interests heard, particularly in relation to locally undesirable land uses. The paper considers two case studies detailing the governance practices at work in differing decisions about casinos in the City of Toronto. A 2012-2013 debate about a casino in downtown Toronto saw a little-used bylaw invoked by city councillors to help them investigate the effects of a casino on “local” issues like traffic and planning. These empowered local actors played a central role in the debate. By contrast, in a 2015 debate about a casino in a poor neighborhood on the margins of the city, the debate proceeded through the usual decision-making process for “city-wide” deliberations, leading to fewer opportunities for involvement by local actors. The final section brings theoretical literature and case studies together to conclude that the institutions of local governance can be reshaped depending on the local actors involved, and claims that shifts in scale, from local to city-wide, have implications for the inclusivity and fairness of Toronto’s governance model.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2018

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