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Council’s casino decision leaves Woodbine vulnerable

It was no surprise when Toronto councillors voted against hosting a downtown casino on Tuesday. But their decision during the special council meeting not to expand gaming at Woodbine has left its operator in shock and worried about its future.

Woodbine Entertainment Group has consistently warned that without the long-term, sustainable revenue offered by an expansion at Woodbine, its horse racing operations – and, by extension, the entire sector – would be at risk.

“We are shocked and disappointed by Toronto City Council’s actions, which have put thousands of jobs at risk,” Woodbine Entertainment Group CEO Nick Eaves said in a statement following the vote.

He added, “We are deeply concerned that Council’s decision may open the door for a competing casino in a neighbouring municipality, which could be devastating to our operations, to our core business and to horse racing in Ontario.”

As part of its modernization plan, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG)  lists Mississauga, Markham-Richmond Hill and Vaughan, which would be a short drive to Woodbine Racetracks in Etobicoke, as possible locations for a GTA casino. Other possible locations included Milton and Pickering.

Woodbine officials have said a neighbouring casino would take away the customer base that goes to the slots and the racetracks and revenues would drop.

Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion told 680News her council hasn’t even considered the casino possibility, while Markham Coun. Jim Jones said a motion to debate the casino matter was slated for the end of the month.

Vaughan officials weren’t immediately available for comment.