Ontario is preparing to hand over control of its gambling operations in the Greater Toronto Area, worth nearly $1bn, to a private operator as the government seeks to further develop the province’s gambling industry.
Within a few weeks, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG) will select a business to run its casino operations in the GTA for the next two decades, with the process attracting a number of major operators.
“I’m looking forward to the long-awaited day when we can inaugurate a ‘Vegas North’ right here in the riding, bringing tourism, concerts, conferences, activity and buzz,” said Shafiq Qaadri, a Liberal MPP whose riding includes Woodbine.
At least three companies – reportedly Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management, American-based Caesars Entertainment and Malaysian conglomerate Genting Group – are said to be in the final round to take over the gambling at Toronto’s Woodbine racetrack, Ajax Downs and the Great Blue Heron Casino in Port Perry.
“Part of that process involves undergoing an extensive due-diligence process into current and past business conduct examining a gaming operator’s ability to act in accordance with the law, with integrity, honesty and in the public interest,” stated OLG spokeswoman, Allison MacNeil.
The OLG says Toronto’s market is still largely underserved, with slots at two horse-racing tracks and a rural casino an hour away from downtown. The sale would allow a private operator to rebuild the three sites as full-fledged casinos and add a fourth gambling establishment, though those changes require municipal approvals.
Whichever company wins the contract will earn a minimum of $72m annually for the 22 years of the deal, as well as up to 70 percent of gambling revenue, according to the OLG. The greatest prize will be the Woodbine racetrack, located at the north end of the city near the Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Woodbine Entertainment, which helps run the site, has been a long-time advocate for development. “The OLG’s modernisation plan is the catalyst for Woodbine Entertainment to unlock the value of the Woodbine lands to sustain horse racing on our 680-acre site and bring real economic development to Rexdale,” affirmed Woodbine spokesman, John Siscos.