Expanded gaming facility at Woodbine would net city an additional $10-$15 million in hosting fees
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Tuesday, April 17, 2018 10:46AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 17, 2018 2:07PM EDT
A proposed casino expansion at Woodbine Racetrack could net the city an additional $10 to $15 million in annual hosting fees while also creating thousands of new jobs, according to a staff report that will be debated by the city’s executive committee today.
In July, 2015 city council voted in favour of allowing expanded gaming at Woodbine so long as the project met 21 conditions. Those conditions largely revolved around job creation, revenue to the city, community benefits and measures that would be taken to mitigate problem gambling.
In the report that will be considered by executive committee today, interim city manager Giuliana Carbone contends that those conditions have been met and that the expansion should go forward.
Carbone’s report notes that the expanded gaming facility would bring in $26 to $31 million in annual hosting fees by 2022, compared to the $16 million the city currently receives. That range is slightly lower than the additional $12.5 million to $19.5 million in hosting fees that a 2015 staff report suggested that the facility would bring in.
Carbone’s report also states that the city would receive an estimated $15 million in additional property tax income upon completion of the first phase of the expansion in 2022 with that number expected to eventually rise to $24 million.
Meanwhile, the report says that staff are satisfied with “key commitments” that have been made to employment targets. Those commitments include a pledge to ensure that 40 per cent of all new employees are hired from the local area, with some of those jobs filled with the assistance of social organizations in the community. There is also a further commitment that 10 per cent of all construction-related job hours be filled using apprentices or journeypersons from the surrounding area.
All told, the report estimates that the expanded facility will create 3,700 new permanent jobs by the end of 2022 with that number rising to 4,600 by the end of 2025. A further 4,000 person-years of employment is expected to be created during the first phase of the construction of the expanded facility, according to the report.
“I think the single most significant thing is the agreement of all those concerned that a very significant number of the construction jobs and a very significant number of the permanent jobs will be offered to local people,” Mayor John Tory told reporters on Tuesday morning. “When you look at the levels of unemployment that exist in that particular part of town, they are in need of help.”
Expanded facility part of multi-use development
The expanded gaming facility would be part of a wider multi-use development that would also include a hotel, restaurants, shopping and office space.
There are also plans to build a multi-use entertainment venue that could accommodate as many as 5,000 spectators next to the racetrack.
Speaking with reporters prior to Tuesday’s meeting, Tory said he has always “predicated his support” for the project on the idea that it would be part of a wider entertainment complex that would create jobs in an area of the city that badly needs them.
He said that he is now satisfied that the project will do that.
“I think we have come a long way on that and I think what is going to happen is that there will be not only jobs in the casino and those are real jobs but there will be literally thousands of other jobs coming from the hotels and the office buildings and the other things that will be constructed there,” he said.
Woodbine Racetrack currently has about 3,000 electronic games but no live dealers. The expanded facility would include 5,000 electronic games and 300 live dealer tables, according to the staff report.
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation previously selected a consortium led by the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation as the service provider for the new expanded gaming facility.
Council, however, must still approve the plans for the facility.
In a message posted to Twitter on Tuesday morning, Ward 19 Coun. Mike Layton said that the agreement would only provide the city with a “tiny fraction” of the money it was once promised with “ZERO local transportation improvements.”
“It’s true, elected officials get dazzled by a casino. But there is little doubt casinos get most of their $ from problem gamblers & proximity to casino increase problem gambling,” he wrote. “Why would local officials bow down to casino and province and take a #baddeal for their community?”