In a move that has been hailed as “a win for the community”, Toronto’s city council greenlights a plan to build a casino at the Woodbine Racetrack.
After much debate, the Woodbine casino project is close to being realized. Toronto’s city council has approved of expanding the Woodbine Racetrack at North Etobicoke to also include casino operations. The move is expected to bring in anywhere from $26 million to $31 million a year for the city once the casino is fully operational.
While the project is now greenlit, it still has its share of critics. The most vocal of these is Councilor Michael Layton who called the casino project a “tired, old idea.” Layton argues that the city would do well to research newer ways to raise money instead of going through with the project.
Aside from Layton, there are others in the area who aren’t too keen on the idea of having a casino there. Some have voiced their concern that the influx of gamblers in the area won’t do the city any good.
When the proposal for the project first came up in 2015, the city council gave Ontario Gaming GTA LP (the service provider) 21 conditions that it needed to meet. This was essential to ensuring that concerns relating to the casino’s development were addressed. These conditions range from initiatives for boosting tourism, providing jobs, as well as working closely with the city’s medical officer for health to lessen gambling’s negative impacts.
The council has made sure to enforce terms that would require the casino to source its manpower from the local community. As the project moves forward, it would be required to do its best to have at least 40% of its employees come from the community directly or through social agencies).
It’s not just the city coffers that’s going to benefit from the council’s approval of the casino. The expansion, as well as the casino’s subsequent operations, should benefit the community by providing jobs to hundreds of workers in the area.
Aside from just hiring opportunities for locals, the city council has also required the Ontario Gaming GTA LP to invest in a $5 million daycare. And since it is mainly for casino workers, the daycare is also set to operate on extended hours.
In an interview with CBC Toronto, Deputy Mayor Vincent Crisanti noted that the move “sets the stage for the beginning of the transformation and revitalization of Etobicoke North.” Crisanti also noted that the area is currently struggling with unemployment and the development should help in addressing this issue.
Crisant’s optimism for the Woodbine’s casino expansion is understandable. Upon completion in 2022, the project is expected to provide 3700 new jobs for the North Etobicoke community. For a community that’s lost 20000 jobs from 2001 to 2011, this development could only be a step in the right direction.
No matter how you spin it, there will always be politicians that will sell you the idea that a casino is good for revenue generation when they don't look hard enough into problem gambling or the overall negative effects it can bring to an area.
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