Back in 2013, Toronto City Council voted against the both a downtown casino and the expansion of the Woodbine Racetrack into a full-blown casino
Now once again, the idea is being re-visited and the casino expansion at the Woodbine Racetrack is one step closer to becoming reality.
The issue was up for debate at a meeting of the executive committee last week which voted 10-3 to put the expansion on the city council’s agenda next week.
The contentious debate took several hours, with a long list of speakers who spoke about what the city stood to gain in terms of revenue, more jobs and other economic spinoffs in the area around.
There were amendments including a request that Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation present a plan for its vision of the expansion.
But if city staff gets its way, council will support an expansion that would see 300 gaming tables and another 2,000 slots added.
Like his predecessor mayor Rob Ford, the current mayor John Tory stated his position on the issue- he firmly supports bringing more gambling to Woodbine, because of the increased economic interest he believes it would bring to the area.
Tory calls the entertainment complex in the northwest part of the city a “catalyst” for other jobs in the area.
Woodbine already has gambling, including horse racing and slot machines. The proposal, which would have to get approval from council next month, would see gambling grow.
More gambling at Woodbine would serve to “attract jobs to a part of the city that desperately needs jobs,” said Tory.
Other councillors and critics have concerns about mental health issues like addiction and the quality of the jobs the casino would provide.
Officials at Woodbine say they need to expand beyond their core product, which is horse racing.
Jim Lawson, Woodbine’s CEO, has said expansion could double the number of visitors to as many as 12 million a year.
A resident of Malton tells Can-India that he considered the casino expansion a necessary evil. “It will definitely bring more people into the area which means there would be scope for restaurants and other retail business. Woodbine Shopping Centre which has been struggling to attract more customers would see more business,” he said.
But many residents in and around the area have mixed feelings about the casino expansion, worrying that the ad campaigns may end up glamorizing gambling and luring people to check it out.
Woodbine Racetrack currently features over 2,500 slot machines, virtual table games as well as an electronic poker room. It is also the only venue in the province to host both live Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing all year round, Woodbine Racetrack delivers pure horsepower.