Toronto mayor silent on crack allegations, loses casino vote

TORONTO Tue May 21, 2013 5:40pm EDT

TORONTO May 21 (Reuters) - Toronto's mayor, facing allegations that he has been caught on video smoking crack cocaine, saw his dreams of a building a full-service casino in the heart of Canada's largest city dashed on Tuesday, as council voted against allowing any new gaming facilities.

Rob Ford avoided any contact with reporters at City Hall and did not address allegations from two media outlets that say they have seen a cellphone video that appears to show him smoking crack cocaine.

On Friday, he said only that the idea was "ridiculous". His lawyer told Reuters on Monday that it was still too early to consider legal action over the allegations and that if there is a video, it needs to be made public so that Canadians can judge the content for themselves.

The usually divided city council voted overwhelmingly in favor of not allowing any new gambling sites within the city and, in a far-tighter second vote, to not allow an expansion of gambling at a racetrack in the northwest corrner of the city.

It was a major defeat for Ford, who had for months championed a downtown casino and conference center as a revenue building tool for the city.

Ford pulled back last week, after it became apparent the revenue-sharing deal the province of Ontario was offering Toronto if it would host a downtown casino was far less rich than the mayor and his allies had hoped.

Plans for a major downtown casino were unpopular from the start with many residents, who worried it would bring profits at the expense of problem gamblers and lead to an increase in crime.

Ford has suffered a series of controversies and defeats since coming to power in December 2010. He has drawn criticism for skipping city council meetings to coach high-school football and for engaging in a confrontation with a reporter outside his home.

He was ordered out of office in 2012 after he was found guilty of conflict of interest, but won an appeal and was allowed to finish his four-year term

Reporters for the Toronto Star and Gawker Media said last week that they had watched a cellphone video that appears to show Ford smoking crack, although both news outlets said they had declined to pay the $100,000 price asked by the tipsters.

Gawker has launched a "Crackstarter" campaign to raise funds needed to buy and publish the video online. (Reporting by Julie Gordon; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson; and Peter Galloway)