New $1 Billion Ontario Casino Could Be Game-Changer For Horse Racing

Written By Dave Briggs on March 9, 2023 - Last Updated on September 28, 2023
Ontario casino to help horse racing

An Ontario casino that will be the largest in Canada when it opens later this year, will be a boon to horse racing, Woodbine Entertainment Group CEO Jim Lawson told PlayCanada on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Great Canadian Entertainment announced its $1 billion casino at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto will be called Great Canadian Casino Resort Toronto.

Lawson said he expects attendance to surge in the new casino’s first full year of operation. Estimates are that the number of visitors will double to more than 12 million.

“This provides a tremendous opportunity for us to expose the sport of horse racing to a substantial amount of entirely new customers,” he said. “The casino resort also creates new revenue streams for Woodbine Entertainment, which in-turn benefits the Ontario horse racing industry as our sole mandate is to grow and sustain horse racing and the 25,000 jobs it supports in Ontario. The opening of the new casino resort is also creating more than 1,000 new jobs for the community, including a few hundred jobs at Woodbine.

“The Woodbine Racetrack grandstand and the casino resort are physically attached and fully integrated. This will create an incredible experience for guests who will be able to enjoy everything our site has to offer from live music, to fine dining, to gaming to watching live horse racing.”

Casino hotel overlooks Woodbine’s three racetracks

The Great Canadian Casino Resort Toronto facility will be massive.

Specifically, it is located at the intersection of Highways 401 and 427 in the community of Rexdale. The casino is being built on a 33-acre parcel of land next to Canada’s leading thoroughbred racing facility. And, the property is just down the road from the nation’s biggest airport — Toronto Pearson International Airport.

The casino will feature:

  • Vegas-style gambling with more than 4,800 slot machines and more than 145 table games.
  • 400-room hotel overlooking the racetrack on one side.
  • 5,000-seat live entertainment venue.
  • Multiple on-site dining options.

Notably, Lawson said the hotel has a large number of rooms that overlook Woodbine’s three thoroughbred racing surfaces.

“And [the hotel is] closest to our renowned EP Taylor Turf Course. Guests staying in the hotel will be able to watch both morning training and live racing right from their rooms,” Lawson said.

“On the ground level, between the hotel and racetrack, there will be outdoor patios, a walking promenade and a hard-scaped trackside apron. That will create incredible viewing experience for live racing. All of this will provide one-of-a-kind visual sightlines to our racetrack which we believe, in itself, will create new interest in our sport.”

Woodbine, Racetrack in Ontario

Andrew Champagne photo of the new hotel being built to overlook the racing surfaces.

New casino “an unprecedented opportunity,” says Anfinson

In a release, Great Canadian CEO Matthew Anfinson said the resort is, “as an unprecedented opportunity to introduce an entirely new, world-class experience in Canada that will bring together the best in casino gaming, exceptional live entertainment, dining, and accommodation in one very special place.

“We are very excited to reveal more about what this landmark destination will feature and what our guests can expect… This project has been several years in the making. We are thrilled that we are close to bringing it to life.”

Great Canadian Casino Resort Toronto will open later this year.

And, the existing Casino Woodbine will continue to operate with no interruption until the new facility debuts.

Woodbine still keen to develop rest of its 684-acre property

As for the racetrack, Lawson said his biggest concern is preparing for additional traffic.

“With a substantial increase in visitors, we have been preparing from a security and operations perspective to ensure all of the guests on site – and our racing participants – have a safe and enjoyable experience,” Lawson said.

MORE: Bet365 horse racing in Ontario now live

Woodbine, which is also working to develop technology to participate in the Ontario sports betting boom, has long tried to develop much of the unused portion of the 684-acre property. Specifically, among other amenities, Lawson has pushed hard to add:

  • a GO Train station
  • housing
  • parks
  • An international soccer facility open in time for Canada to be a co-host of the 2026 World Cup.

As the larger property continues be developed, we appreciate there will be some growing pains and ongoing construction that we will need to manage to provide the best possible guest experience while the site is transformed,” Lawson said. “All in all, this is a positive step. It is part of a bigger plan to  develop the entire site. [That includes] new neighbourhoods with housing, restaurants, shops, employment space and parks with horse racing at the centre of it all.”

In other GCE news, Bryan Adams will open entertainment centre

Along with the name for its new casino at Woodbine, there was more news from GCE this week. Canadian rock legend Bryan Adams will officially open The Arena at Pickering Casino Resort with a concert on April 26.

Further, the 2,500-seat entertainment facility is part of the new $500 million Pickering Casino Resort.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to have Canadian icon Bryan Adams officially open Pickering Casino Resort,” Anfinson said.

“His dynamic performance will be the perfect way to showcase this venue. And it will emphasize our commitment to providing a wide range of world-class events and experiences from concerts to sports. We can’t wait to see the excitement and energy that Bryan Adams will bring to this incredible space.”

And, members of GCE’s Great Canadian Rewards loyalty program will have advance access to concert tickets. Specifically, that access begins on March 16, 2023 at 10 a.m. ET. For complete presale details please visit

Photo by Michael Burns / Woodbine
Dave Briggs Avatar
Written by
Dave Briggs

Dave Briggs is a managing editor and writer for Catena Media. His expertise is covering the gambling industry in Canada with emphasis on the casino, sports betting and horse racing sectors. He is currently reporting on the gaming industries in Canada and Michigan.

View all posts by Dave Briggs
Privacy Policy