The Ontario government has revealed an agreement that will allowed two casinos to coexist in the suburbs east of Toronto, ending a standoff that nearly required the casino at Ajax Downs to close.
The deal, announced by Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government, will see the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) rewrite its rules, which previously only permitted a single casino in the area.
Ajax Downs to Complement New Casino
That change will allow the continuation of casino operations at Ajax Downs, a quarter-horse race track that currently features 800 slot machines. Under the terms of the agreement, that number will be reduced to about 500 machines.
The idea is for the venue to serve as a complementary piece to Durham Live, a newly proposed casino that is slated to offer 2,700 slots and up to 1,000 table games once in opens in neighboring Pickering.
Both the track and the new casino will be operated by Great Canadian Gaming Corp., which is based out of Vancouver. Great Canadian announced last year that it planned to move the Ajax Downs casino to Pickering. But Rod Philips, the Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Ajax, argued that the new casino could be developed alongside the racetrack instead of replacing it.
“People sometimes like to have different entertainment choices,” Phillips said at the announcement. “And so why couldn’t there be two facilities operating and run by the same operator?”
The news was heartily welcomed by Ajax Mayor Steve Parrish, who thanked Phillips, Ford, and Finance Minister Vic Fedeli for keeping slots at the race track.
“This was so important to our community,” Parish said during the announcement. “It has been responsible for building so much infrastructure here over the years…let alone all the jobs it brought to the table.”
Both Cities Pleased with Compromise
The idea of having two casinos in the area was rejected by the previous Liberal government. But Ford had promised not only to allow both venues to stay open, but that both cities would be happy with a two-site solution to the issue.
That appeared to be the case based on reactions from officials in Pickering, who once thought they would have the only casino in the area.
“It’s not a competing casino, it’s just slots,” Peter Bethlenfalvy, the MPP for Pickering-Uxbridge, told The Globe and Mail. “Which is complementary to the slots and gaming tables at the Pickering site.”
“There’s just so much more in the Durham Live facility, I’m not concerned at all,” Pickering Mayor Dave Ryan told The Globe and Mail.
It remains to be seen just how long this deal will allow Ajax Downs to keep operating a casino. When the current agreement is finalized, the Ajax casino will be allowed to remain open until 2026, with options available for to extend the deal for up to another 12 years. It is unknown whether there are any new costs to Ajax Downs as a part of the arrangement.
Ajax Downs is the only quarter-horse racing facility in Ontario, and is said to be responsible for 1,700 local jobs.