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Big Players Looking to Cash in at New Woodbine Casino
By Tim Gault


Big Players Looking to Cash in at New Woodbine Casino
OLG has invited the bidders to submit tenders that would include the development and operation of three sites – Woodbine Racetrack, Great Blue Heron charity casino, just north of Port Perry, and either Ajax (at Ajax Down Racetrack) or Pickering (as part of a proposed new entertainment precinct called Durham Live).

Toronto - September 24, 2016 - Some of the biggest names in the international gaming industry are hoping to come to Ontario and the GTA in what could be one of the biggest boosts to employment and development the region has seen for many years.

It has recently been announced that a number of leading Canadian and international gaming operators are bidding to win the rights to operate three new casino venues in and around Toronto.

OLG has invited the bidders to submit tenders that would include the development and operation of three sites - Woodbine Racetrack, Great Blue Heron charity casino, just north of Port Perry, and either Ajax (at Ajax Down Racetrack) or Pickering (as part of a proposed new entertainment precinct called Durham Live).

The winning company will take control of the sites and propose future plans, and the bidders are thought to include Great Canadian Gaming Corp (who already operate casinos and race tracks in Ontario), Penn National Gaming (which runs Casino Rama), Caesars, Genting Group, Mohegan Sun, and the Canadian/US group that currently runs Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls.

The proposed expansion of the gaming facilities at Woodbine Racetrack is seen as the most significant element of the plan.

Woodbine currently has around 2,700 slot machines and computerised poker tables, but the new proposal will also see 300 live dealer tables come into play, along with a further 2,000 slots. Already one of the busiest gaming floors in North America since slots were introduced there in the year 2000, the new expanded gaming facility will go hand in hand with Woodbine’s own $50 million development plans for their 680-acre site, set to include an entertainment complex, restaurants, hotels and a water park.

Supporters of the scheme have forecast that the new development could create up to 1400 new jobs directly in gaming, in a district of the GTA which has seen a 26 per cent drop in employment over the last ten years.

As with any new development, particularly one which involves gambling, there have been opponents of the expansion. However, supporters have pointed out that full casinos with live games as well as slots already exist in Ontario, with popular venues in the province such as Rama Casino and Casino Niagara currently offering card and table games, such as blackjack, poker and roulette. And as this regional site shows, there are casinos located throughout Canada, with players in the other major metropolises currently having more gaming options than those in Toronto. This new development can be seen as a means of bringing revenue into an area that sorely needs it and which would otherwise go elsewhere.

Previous attempts to expand gambling in and around the GTA have been unsuccessful. In 2013, a proposal to develop a downtown casino site was rejected by the Council, as was an earlier plan to expand gaming at Woodbine, but the election of John Tory as Mayor saw a revised plan for expanded gaming brought forward.

Then, in July 2015 It was announced that City Hall Councillors had voted in favour of the expanded gambling facility at Woodbine 25 to 19, accompanied by the news that the development is expected to boost city revenue by up to $11 million annually.

Part of the reason the new proposals have been approved was the prospect of increased employment opportunities and economic development in a depressed area. However concerns over the effects of problem gambling have also been voiced, and it is expected that the winning bidder will need to make a contribution to agencies that help those with an addiction.

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