Six months after the expanded and rebranded Great Canadian Casino Resort Toronto opened at Woodbine Racetrack, Canada’s largest casino still scores an incomplete in terms of a review.
When PlayCanada visited in early November, all that wasn’t yet open in the massive expansion clearly outnumbered what was open. Not a lot has changed since.
So, to be fair, we will return sometime this year after everything — hopefully — is finally operational to give it another look.
But, early impressions found the facility lacking in terms of ambiance and amenities.
Those that have left Google Reviews seem to agree. Great Canadian Casino Resort Toronto ranks dead last out of Ontario’s 30 retail casinos with an average score of 3.4 out of 5. That is startlingly low given the casino’s size, scope and prime location, even factoring in that it is still far from complete.
Our bet is that score will improve, but it does make one wonder if Great Canadian opened the doors too early and may suffer some early and lingering PR challenges because of it.
All the ambiance of an airplane hangar
The main gambling floor in the expanded space was open when we visited. No surprise since it is crucial to funding the $1 billion worth of improvements being made in this casino.
The new gambling area is in addition and adjacent to the original gaming floor located in the Woodbine Racetrack.
All told, the casino is 328,000-square feet, boasts 4,800 slot machines and 145 table games. That makes the Great Canadian Casino Resort Toronto the largest casino in Canada and one rivalling Las Vegas gambling palaces.
The new gaming floor was massive and featured a multitude of slot machines, with most of the live and electronic table games situated in the middle of a vast, impersonal space.
It is said to be the size of the Rogers Centre and has the personality to match the much-ridiculed home of the Toronto Blue Jays. The gambling area of the Great Canadian Casino Resort Toronto has all the ambiance of an airplane hangar with the usual garish casino carpeting.
But, again, it’s not finished.
Let’s hope Great Canadian makes improvements in aesthetics before it is fully complete.
Very limited sports betting, no sportsbook imminent
There’s no word, yet, if the Great Canadian Casino Resort will have a sportsbook, but it doesn’t look like it. One isn’t mentioned in any of the press material or on the casino’s website.
All we could find is some lame sports betting kiosks scattered on the edges of the gaming floor near the instant tellers.
So, if retail sports betting is your thing, give this casino a pass for now.
Instead, head over to the racetrack and place a bet on the ponies.
Poker room now open; entertainment venue, sort of
A second-floor poker room is now open.
We visited on the eve of it opening when it was going through a last-minute test run with a room full of players.
The 5,000-seat entertainment venue has also had a soft opening, but wasn’t open, yet, when we were there.
The grand opening isn’t until May and there isn’t much on the schedule until then. But, the Live Nation facility did play host to a Tom Cochrane shakedown concert on New Year’s Eve. There has been little word how that show went, but Gwen Stefani and her husband Blake Shelton are doing back-to-back grand opening concerts on May 3 and 4. So, one presumes the facility will be fully ready by then.
The high-tech facility holds a lot of promise given its mid-level venue size in a major North American market.
The hotel was lovely and featured expansive views of the racetrack
There is also a 400-room hotel on site. And here is where our review gets better.
Only about half of the hotel floors were open when we visited.
In fact, the room we had was on a floor that just opened that week. We likely were one of the first people to stay in that room and it was lovely.
We requested a view of the racetrack and were not disappointed — other than the fact that there was no racing on when we were there.
Woodbine Racetrack is Canada’s premier thoroughbred facility. The view from our hotel room featured expansive views of the three racing surfaces. It was especially lovely to watch early-morning training from our room the next morning.
Pro tip for horse racing fans: Book yourself a track-facing room for this summer’s King’s Plate. You won’t be disappointed.
However, while the rooms were nice and reasonably priced (probably because the facility is a long way from completion), the “wet area” featuring a pool, sauna and steam room was not, yet, open. It doesn’t appear to be open, yet, based on the official website and its social media page.
The fitness centre was open, but a spa “wellness area” was not.
Some restaurants open, more to come
The Great Canadian Casino Resort Toronto had a few restaurants open when we visited, most notably the Copperhorn Meet House and the Casual. There were also a number of higher-end fast service options such as Noodlebox, Big Smoke Burger and Pizzaiolo.
But there promises to be more eateries to come and the place will need them if it hopes to truly rival Las Vegas casinos.
Our guess is celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay may have a restaurant in the space before too long. He recently opened two restaurants at Great Canadian casinos in B.C.
Our verdict, for now
Bottom line, the Great Canadian Casino Resort Toronto still needs a lot of work. But, it has great potential, especially if they improve the ambiance.
We’ll return to review it again once everything is open for a more complete review.
But we can’t help but wonder if it would have been prudent for Great Canadian Entertainment to have completed more of the facility before opening the doors. After all, the company could have carried on with the original gaming space in the Woodbine grandstand until the new part was finished.
As it stands, PlayCanada’s review found the Great Canadian Casino Resort Toronto to be massive, unimpressive and incomplete.