Toronto.com: Live gaming gets the go-ahead at expanded Woodbine Racetrack

Posted April 9, 2018

Expanded gaming at Woodbine Racetrack is one step closer to city approval.
 
But it was north Etobicoke residents’ concerns with a future Woodbine Community Benefits Agreement, not the zoning bylaw amendments and draft plan of subdivision before Etobicoke York Community Council on April 4, that comprised the majority of the 3.5-hour meeting.
 
Woodbine Entertainment Group proposes to expand its gaming at Woodbine Racetrack to include live dealer tables in its existing grandstand and in a planned 57-acre gaming district.
 
WEG undertook an extensive master plan process for its 684 acres of Woodbine Racetrack lands, which forecasts a performance venue, gaming floor, restaurants, hotels, a convention centre, retail, office space and residential development.
 
Community council unanimously endorsed city planners’ recommendations. It will be considered by Toronto council later this month.
 
Local councillor Michael Ford said the Woodbine project and CBA is “the number one file on our (office’s) agenda.
 
“This will come to fruition. It’s an incredible investment. It will be a significant development in north Etobicoke that will leverage more transit to connect to the airport and connect northwest Toronto to the rest of Toronto.”
 
In 2015, Toronto council approved expanded gaming at Woodbine Racetrack, in principle, subject to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation meeting 21 conditions.
 
Councillors’ affirmative vote upheld city planners’ opinion that the first 12 conditions, all related to planning issues, have been satisfied.
 
Residents heard Woodbine’s CBA is contained in conditions 13 through 21, which are the subject of a city manager’s report to go before Toronto council’s executive committee on April 17 in a committee room at city hall.
 
Fellow Etobicoke North Councillor Vince Crisanti urged residents who spoke to community council to express their opinions to executive committee later this month.
 
“We’re making history in Etobicoke North,” Crisanti said. “We’re probably the only city in North America with 700 acres of land to develop in the city.”
 
North Etobicoke residents, an ACORN representative and a Toronto Community Benefits Network representative, expressed concerns with the Woodbine plans’ overall vision, its integration, or lack thereof, into the community, as well as a perceived lack of community spaces, including licensed employee child care.
 
The CBA must be about more than the provision of local jobs, they said.
 
Councillors heard Toronto Community Benefits Network is assisting residents to advocate their interests’ inclusion in the CBA, and that residents had organized around the Woodbine CBA for the past decade.
 
“It is not a CBA unless it involves the players in the community, otherwise, it’s a city community benefits decree,” Steve Watson said. “For people in the community, the issues have not been satisfactorily addressed.”
 
Robert Dragicevic, Woodbine’s agent, said Woodbine has a “very strong interest in integration into the community.
 
“We’re working with all the transit organizations — Mississauga, York and the TTC — and surface transit will be augmented by the (future) LRT,” Dragicevic said.
 
Peter D’Gama, a representative of Toronto ACORN, which advocates for low- and moderate-income families, said the Woodbine CBA “needs a clear monitoring and enforcement mechanism, and needs to be inclusive, collaborative and accountable with hard targets.
 
“It’s imperative that a comprehensive CBA actively seeks community input.”
 
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Article by Tamara Shephard for Toronto.com