$30M in annual city revenue expected from Woodbine casino expansion, but concerns persist

In 2022, when the facility is fully built-out, the city can expect to receive $26 to $31 million a year, according to estimates from the province’s Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.

City can expect $26M to $31M a year when facility is fully built-out in 2022

Shown here in concept art, the multi-use development is touted by Woodbine Entertainment Group as a 'city within a city,' with shopping venues and offices alongside the expanded gaming facility. (Woodbine)

UPDATED: On Tuesday night, Mayor John Tory's executive committee gave its stamp of approval to the Woodbine casino expansion, with a few caveats.

Several amendments were made, including exploring the possibility of child care for casino employees and beefing up hiring targets.

The interim city manager is set to report back to the full city council next week.


The proposed casino expansion at Woodbine Racetrack could bring in roughly $30 million in annual revenue for the city and provide hundreds of jobs to local workers, but critics aren't sure the project is a safe bet.

A recent report from interim city manager Giuliana Carbone notes that in 2022, when the facility is fully built-out, the city can expect to receive $26 to $31 million a year, according to estimates from the province's Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG).

"Is this the right way to fund government, by preying on people's addiction?" questioned Coun. Mike Layton, who has been a vocal critic of the project. "Most of the money that comes into casinos is from people who have a problem with gambling."

Layton also believes the potential expansion isn't living up to previous promises.

The latest annual city revenue numbers, he notes, are lower than earlier projections. He also says the most recent report doesn't dive into the potential costs to the city, be it policing or social costs stemming from problem gambling.

Concept art for the proposed Woodbine casino expansion, as seen from the racetrack. (Woodbine)

City has 21 conditions on hiring, problem gambling

Carbone's report suggests city council put a stamp of approval on the efforts of service provider Ontario Gaming GTA LP to meet various conditions laid out by council in 2015, which include mitigating the negative impacts of gambling by working with city staff and the medical officer of health.

Those 21 conditions also include boosting tourism and providing jobs, with a commitment to having at least 40 percent of employees hired in the community and through local social agencies. 

All the conditions have all been met, notes the report, which also recommends the city enter into a formal Community Benefits Agreement with Ontario Gaming.

The upcoming casino expansion at Woodbine Racetrack would provide hundreds of jobs to local workers and bring in roughly $30 million in annual revenue for the city, but concerns about the polarizing project still persist. (Woodbine)

'We think it could be stronger'

Rosemarie Powell, executive director of advocacy group Toronto Community Benefits Network, wants the number of local hires boosted to 60 percent and hopes child care will be provided for workers at the Rexdale-based racetrack.

"We want to see reporting and oversight mechanisms so the public can be assured that jobs and investments will actually benefit the local community," she said.

Rosemarie Powell, executive director of advocacy group Toronto Community Benefits Network, wants the number of local hires boosted to 60 percent and hopes child care will be provided for workers at the Rexdale-based racetrack. (Lauren Pelley/CBC News)

3,700 new jobs expected by end of 2022

By the end of 2022, the facility is expected to provide roughly 3,700 new jobs.

Carbone's report says Ontario Gaming plans to ensure at least half of the employees will be working full-time after two years of operation.

As CBC reported last year, many northern Etobicoke residents are hopeful that the casino expansion will revitalize an area that lost upwards of 20,000 jobs between 2001 and 2011.

The multi-use development is touted by Woodbine Entertainment Group as a "city within a city," with shopping, offices, two hotels and a performance venue alongside the expanded gaming facility.

About the Author

Lauren Pelley

Reporter

Lauren Pelley is a CBC reporter in Toronto covering city hall and municipal affairs. Contact her at: lauren.pelley@cbc.ca

With files from Kate McGillivray