The push for a casino at Woodbine racetrack divides progressive voices
Casino expansion pits community activist Andray Domise against Coun. Mike Layton
Toronto Mayor John Tory said Wednesday that he supports studying the possibility of turning Woodbine racetrack into a casino — an issue that's divided progressive voices in the city.
His executive committee approved a request for a staff report on a proposed casino at Woodbine, which currently has slot machines but no table games.
The committee heard presentations on the idea for much of the morning and afternoon.
- Metro Morning | Should Woodbine develop a casino?
Tory, speaking with reporters while the executive committee took a break, said he's willing to go through that fight again because he thinks the casino could be an economic "catalyst" for the Rexdale area of Etobicoke.
"I believe it is a part of the city that desperately needs investment and job creation," Tory said.
"I am very willing and anxious to look at whether expanded gaming would serve as a catalyst for that."
Former city council candidate for Ward 2 Andray Domise told CBC Radio's Metro Morning many in the Rexdale community support the idea.
"Trying to find a job within the community is really hard," he said. "As some have said, it's easier to find a gun in the area than a job."
Domise said it is too hard to get downtown — where most people in the ward work. That depresses economic activity in Rexdale.
As evidence, he said the nearby mall, Woodbine Shopping Centre, is downtrodden with a high turnover rate for tenant businesses. He thinks a casino would help all this.
Coun. Rob Ford, who represents Ward 2, also wants to see a casino established at Woodbine.
"I'd like to see Woodbine become a full casino, just like the Exhibition does for 20 days every year," Ford told CBC News.
"They have the slots, they want tables. Let's give 'em tables, let's create jobs [and] stimulate the economy. That's what we have to do."
The casino proposal is not without its detractors.
He likened gambling to smoking, saying people are "wising up" and quitting the vice.
Layton publicly called out the idea for a Woodbine casino on Twitter, telling Domise casinos cost communities more than they gain.
"The pathway to prosperity and good jobs isn't paved by promises of a golden mile. It's done with new ideas and investment. Not shortcuts," tweeted Layton at Domise.
Domise, who is a self-described progressive, said he has not seen Layton or any downtown councillors come with any new ideas for the Rexdale neighbourhood.
"The first thing we need is building better transit," said Layton on Metro Morning. He said that would help spur business in the area.
Layton said downtown councillors should have a say in Etobicoke development, just as Etobicoke councillors should have a say in downtown development. He stressed it's better to have a fulsome dialogue with many perspectives.