The Toronto city council has approved the addition of a casino at the Woodbine Racetrack.
The council, in a meeting on Wednesday, voted 25-19 in favor of the expansion of the racetrack, which already features as many as 2,700 slot machines. The council considered the number of jobs that the Woodbine casino would create as well as other benefits from the property. They also paid attention to the negative effects the expansion might have on Toronto and its residents.
Toronto Mayor John Tory commented that the council had voted for the creation of more jobs for residents. Yet the officials said concerns about gambling addicts and people with problem gambling behavior would be paid due attention.
“My support for taking this proposition to the next stage does, however, arise out of a profound determination that I have to see more jobs become available in the northwest corner of the city, an area that has been starved for jobs and opportunity for a long, long time,” said Tory.
Woodbine Entertainment Group CEO Jim Lawson said that the approved casino project would boost Ontario’s horse racing industry and would create opportunities for further expansion. He also pointed out that a casino at his property could attract 12m visitors 12m per year, roughly twice its current level.
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG) is looking for an operator of the casino. Once expanded, the property would feature 5,000 slot machines and 120 table games, including craps, roulette, and blackjack.
According to initial estimates, the expansion could generate an additional $7m-$11m in tax revenue for the city.
Lawson said OLG will need to see the proposals in the next couple of months. Once the request of proposals are completed and approval is provided, the expansion can move ahead.
Several councillors opposed to the proposal warned their colleagues that approving expanded gambling at Woodbine could result in job losses in other part of Toronto’s hospitality and leisure industry.
Councilor Mike Layton said he was disappointed with this turn of the events, believing council could have come up with more “creative” ways to secure job growth in the area.