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Toronto could explore expanded gambling at Woodbine Racetrack

TORONTO –  The city’s Executive Committee wants staff to hold public consultations in Etobicoke to test the appetite for expanding gaming at Woodbine beyond the current slot machines.

But one executive member says the report would be a wasted effort because there’s no public information about what Woodbine Entertainment is planning.

“What is the expanded gambling that you’re asking us to consult upon?” David Shiner asked the committee.

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He pressed Woodbine President Nick Eaves to provide more details but Eaves said now is not the time.

Woodbine contends the city has to decide whether it will be a welcomed host for a more robust gaming site. Council prohibited any expansion in 2013 but that debate was primarily focused on a downtown casino.

Eaves says public consultation is the way to go now.

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“If the decision is there is a willingness through public consultation and through hard work of the staff report to reconsider the issue then that’s the time to get into all these important questions that rightly need to be asked.”

But Shiner noted that Woodbine is already admitting it supports expanded gaming as a way to stabilize its business. He’s convinced that Eaves’ team has already drafted a proposal.

“They are the owners of the property. They have a plan. The plan should not be secret. The plan should be public. And if we’re going out for consultation the public should know what ther plan is so we can then respond to that” said Shiner.

But Mayor John Tory dismissed any notion of a hidden agenda.

“There’s no secret plan. We’re having a meeting in full public view at the Exec Committee today where we’re just at the first chapter; we’re at the beginning of a process.”

The Executive committee approved the public consultation plan. Council will have its say at the end of March.