05/21/2013 4:26PM

Woodbine's bid to expand casino gambling rejected by Toronto council


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – The Woodbine Entertainment Group’s plans for expanded casino gambling suffered what would appear to be a fatal blow on Tuesday when Toronto City Council voted 24-20 against Mayor Rob Ford’s proposal to put more slot machines and table games at the racetrack.

“It’s very disappointing news, especially coming out of a positive recommendation in the City of Toronto’s staff report and then an overwhelmingly supportive vote in favor by the executive committee in the middle of April,” said Nick Eaves, president and chief executive officer of WEG.

“With those two things in place, for full council to reject the expansion opportunity was a shocking outcome.

“The councilors know what’s at stake. They knew full well that really the issue at Woodbine was making certain that there was a sustainable business plan, that the 7,500 jobs that Woodbine generates can be protected, with the opportunity of new jobs being created. We’re the largest employer in the northwest corner of the city.”

A proposal for a downtown Toronto casino was also defeated at the meeting Tuesday at Toronto City Hall, leaving the door open for the province’s Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation to locate a full casino in nearby Vaughan, where it would be in close and direct opposition to Woodbine. The provincial government has established 29 gaming zones for casino expansion but has said it would respect the wishes of any city voting against a casino. Vaughan has expressed an interest.

A full casino would have created additional revenue for Woodbine, which formerly received 10 percent of the net slots revenue with another 10 percent going to horsemen for purses. That program ended on March 31, and racetracks currently lease their slots areas to the OLG. Woodbine gets an annual subsidy in a two-year deal with the provinical government to cover its operating costs.

Eaves said, however, that the battle is far from over.

“The province has committed to taking certain measures to ensure a sustainable horse racing industry,” said Eaves. “We’re all pleased that the new premier (Kathleen Wynn) has given that undertaking. She made that announcement in early March; it was reiterated in the budget that came out two weeks ago.

“She shed a bit more light on it last Monday, when she talked about the panel of three former cabinet ministers being reassembled to build that plan.”

Ontario’s Liberal Government, then headed by Dalton McGuinty, had appointed a transition panel last fall with the object of developing a plan to keep horse racing afloat in the wake of the lost slots revenue.

Transitional funding was released to most of the province’s racetracks earlier this spring but the amounts remain confidential.

“We’ve got to make sure that we’re working through that process and towards an outcome that ensures there is a sustainable industry which has a revenue base from gaming at our sites and can be invested back,” Eaves said.

Justin Time More than 1 year ago
It is shameful and beyond comprehension what some comments on this site are suggesting. It clearly shows that nobody has bothered to understand the real problems with Woodbine. Over the last 14 years they have received over 180 million a year and the government has never audited where that money was going. Name another entity that employs over 200 people through nepotism just to squander the OLG manna of slots revenue and then has the gall to cry wolf because the government has decided to stop such lavish contracts of greed and squander at tax payers expense. Name another track that offered 90 thousand dollars purses for maiden races and had been floundering at its betting handle. Name another track that employed 5 handicappers where the majority was absolutely gibberish. It seems to me that after 14 years of spoiled riches Woodbine is finding hard to continue with this lavish lifestyle for its management team salaries and benefits and some preferred horsemen who receive that VIP treatment. Anybody who knows the operations of the Woodbine backstretch will know the score. Unless the Ontario Racing Commission and the Minister responsible take serious actions to develop horse racing like the days of EP Taylor, then all this talk, appointments and commissions are simply a waste of tax payers’ money. Is it incidental that the costs of corruption, collusion, fraud, political appointments at the OLG is detrimental to the Ontario tax payer, yet all the privileges, profits and benefits are distributed to those that are within the circle of cabals who dictate to the government how the share of Casino Slots and Lotteries profits should be divided. Name another entity like the OLG that handles over a billion dollars weekly from the monopoly of Casinos & Lotteries, yet contributed less than 800 million dollars a year for the last 14 years. Unless the Government, the OLG and the racetracks themselves understand the problems that are obvious from the outside, the solutions that need to come together for saving the horse racing industry are still too far removed. Government hand outs at tax payers expense should have ended long time ago and fair distribution to every racetrack for whatever service they provide to the OLG should be the main issue in this battle of survival. DISGRACEFUL.
philcoforde More than 1 year ago
This comment is a DISGRACE laden with dubious numbers and bogus suppositions. 200 people through nepotism ? Puh'leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze. Name one. $90 K maiden races ? Give me a break. NOT TRUE. $67 k is the highest MSW race at Woodbine. Taxpayers never PAID A DIME for the purses at Woodbine. Free citizens making free decisions to play slots helped fund the 20 (track)/80 (gov't) split that drove purse and made Woodbine the model for all racinos that followed. Moreover, the government exploited Woodbine's infrastructure to house their slot machines and proceeded to reap a cash bonanza that has seen $14 BILLION go to the provincial treasury, only to have incompetent pols blow the money. Where's the AUDIT for that ? The irony of this whole STUPID fiasco is...Woodbine never needed a dime of taxpayer money before and now they truly do receive a 'subsidy'...in the form of the transitional funding. It's a bloody joke, only 60,000 folks employed in this historic industry AIN'T LAUGHIN'.
chairmanwong0 More than 1 year ago
Plain and simple, woodbine competes for entertainment dollars. And theyre not keeping up. So blame the business for being run poorly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You'd think they were on crack or something...
Rick Brunk More than 1 year ago
I live not far from a closed track (The Woodlands) in Kansas City Kansas. It is obvious that the only way for that track to make a profit at all is to have slot machine revenue. The greedy government wants a 40% share of the slot take. Why can't they settle for 20%? Which is better, 40% of nothing or 20% of something. Give the track what it needs to thrive,bring in better purses,better horses,better trainers. Put allot of people back to work! Look at the statistics of tracks that have added slot play and see how that has brought the track back to life.I say eliminate the greed of the goverment and let the tracks begin to prosper again.
chairmanwong0 More than 1 year ago
So is the government better to use tax dollars to serve the horsemen and owners through richer purses or is it better to use tax dollars to fund social programs like education and medicare? Sorry to say, but I vote education and medicare. The government is in place to care for the residents, not for just a specific demographic. If woodbine cant operate in a self sustainable manner, then its a failing business. Dont blame the politicians for caring for social pograms, blame the poor management at woodbine for killing the horse industry.
rabbimic136 More than 1 year ago
self sustainable manner?healthcare in canada is free.because of there high tax rate.politicians and others shouldnt confuse socalisim with free markets.woodbine needs the extra money due to the fact they pay ungodly taxes.not because they dont know how to run a buisness get a clue.the jobs created by the extra slots would have injected money not welfare in to the local comunities witch would have lowered those welfare payments because those unemployed people would have a job not welfare.
chairmanwong0 More than 1 year ago
Last time I checked the canada revenue agency website, all corporations pay the same tax rate. Woodbine isnt being taxed at a higher rate, they are being taxed the same rate as any other corproration. Add to that, they get funding from government through slot revenue. Woodbine has had the extra benefit of slot revenue for more than ten years and during that time, they havent been able to change the business model into a self sustaining one. I understand there are 7500 jobs at stake and the welfare of a corporation that provides employment, but it if is a broken corpration with a poor business model, no matter how much bailout money they receive, they will continue to ruin themselves. So again, i support the Canadian government in using tax dollars as wisely as possible. And if that means making tough choices, then so be it. The horse industry is not entitled to this slot revenue funding, the golden goose has hatched it last egg. Food for thought, considering woodbines track record with how well they are running the horse product and driving it to the ground, what makes you think a government entity would entrust them with table games and additional slots, they ruin it the same way. The government entity knows full well woodbine is a broken corporation.
Bob Adams More than 1 year ago
chairmanwong0 from what you have written you must be getting a handout from our left wing government and you don't want anyone messing with that. All of you left wingers are the same. You talk about education and health because these items have always been the flavour of the month, try getting a job. And don't talk about this government making tough choices they couldn't run a lemonade stand. Like all of you feeding off the system nothing more than liars and cheats, and your handout will be to you at the end of the month.
chairmanwong0 More than 1 year ago
Hi BobAdams, I can appreciate that your comments are from the heart, thats why you speak so strongly in favour of a bailout for woodbine and I am sure there are many that support your point of view. Unfortunately many more who now understand the issue at hand and realize woodbine is a failed business do not agree with your point of view. I applaud you for speaking your mind, and as such, I will continue to speak mine. Freedom of speech is great. But also do understand that none of our levels of government that are in power are left wing, just saying.
rabbimic136 More than 1 year ago
the reason the goverment knows there broke is because there the ones who broke it though regulation -red tape-and socialisim.and your right woodbine isint entitled to anything. just like how people who dont work shouldnt get a free ride on the backs of others who do..heres some food for thought socialisim works great....untill you run out of other peoples money
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Politicians need to get a real job instead of being on the taxpayers dole Then just maybe they would be responsable to the people that elected them.
Bob Adams More than 1 year ago
What the hell is going on in Toronto and this province, simple math will tell you the Slots At Racetrack program put us in the envy position with our breeding and racing. And now greed and could screw up a box lunch is sitting in the drivers seat and we are all going to lose big time. All the politicians are only giving up lip service to win votes, and screw horse racing. I say we vote for who ever will get us back to where we were, and if this needs an election, so be it. Lets hold these liars accountable.