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The push for a casino at Woodbine racetrack divides progressive voices

03/25/2015 08:44 EDT | Updated 05/25/2015 05:59 EDT
City councillors are discussing turning Woodbine racetrack into a casino on Wednesday, and the debate is exposing a rift between progressive voices in the city.

Deputy Mayor Vincent Crisanti will request that the executive committee ask city council to seek public consultation on live gaming. He wants that to include an online questionnaire, an opinion poll and a public meeting in Etobicoke.

Some say the casino is needed for economic development in the area, while others are dead set against casinos.

Former city council candidate for Ward 2 Andray Domise told Metro Morning many in the Rexdale community support the idea.

"Trying to find a job within the community is really hard," he said. "As some have said, it's easier to find a gun in the area than a job."

Domise said it is too hard to get downtown — where most of the jobs for people in the ward work. That depresses economic activity in Rexdale.

As evidence, he said the nearby mall, Woodbine Shopping Centre, is downtrodden with a high turnover rate for tenant businesses. He thinks a casino would help all this.

Betting against

The casino proposal is not without its detractors.

"I want to make sure these are good jobs, not just jobs," said Mike Layton, city councillor for downtown Ward 19.

He likened gambling to smoking, saying people are "wising up" and quitting the vice.

Layton publicly called out the idea for a Woodbine casino on Twitter, telling Domise casinos cost communities more than they gain.

"The pathway to prosperity and good jobs isn't paved by promises of a golden mile. It's done with new ideas and investment. Not shortcuts," tweeted Layton at Domise.

Domise, who is a self-described progressive, said he has not seen Layton or any downtown councillors come with any new ideas for the Rexdale neighbourhood.

"The first thing we need is building better transit," said Layton on CBC's Metro Morning. He said that would help spur business in the area.

Layton said downtown councillors should have a say in Etobicoke development, just as Etobicoke councillors should have a say in downtown development. He stressed it's better to have a fulsome dialogue with many perspectives.

In 2013, council voted against expanded gaming at the site.

Crisanti's motion says Woodbine racetrack needs the added revenue from live gaming if it is to survive past 2019.

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