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Survey Shows Support for Woodbine Casino

The Ontario racetrack currently has slots but favors having full casino gambling.

A poll commissioned by Woodbine Entertainment Group indicates a majority of the Toronto, Ontario, residents surveyed oppose locating a casino downtown, and that slightly more than half support a full-scale casino at Woodbine racetrack.

WEG, which operates Woodbine and Mohawk Raceway, released the poll results April 17 amid ongoing conflict over the Ontario government’s plan to end the province’s slots-at-racetracks program overseen by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. At least six racetracks have been told they will lose their slot machines no later than March 2013.

The Ontario horse racing industry—Thoroughbred, Standardbred, and Quarter Horse—is fighting the plan. There already have been indications some facilities—Woodbine and Mohawk among them—will keep slots and perhaps get other forms of gaming either through the OLG or privatization.

WEG said the poll conducted by Environics Research Group indicates 51% of Toronto residents that were surveyed support the idea of a full casino at Woodbine. Support in the Woodbine neighborhood of Etobicoke was 60%, WEG reported.

The survey found that opposition to a downtown casino was at 62% from those polled.

The survey was conducted by telephone among a random sample of 500 Toronto residents ages 18 and older from Feb. 16-21 of this year. The margin of error for a sample of that size is plus or minus 4.4 points, according to the research group.

“We were not surprised with the results indicating Woodbine as the preferred location for a Toronto casino, particularly by residents of Etobicoke given our social, economic, and safety record in the community,” WEG president and chief executive officer Nick Eaves said. “Woodbine Entertainment Group is recognized provincially, nationally, and internationally as a premier racing operator. Our successful partnership with the OLG has made Woodbine the most profitable gaming site in Ontario, so expansion to a casino site would be both logical and easily facilitated.”

Aside from the two racetracks, WEG operates a large off-track betting network in the Toronto area, an advance deposit wagering service, and a digital television channel that broadcasts horse racing across Canada.