News / Toronto

Rexdale advocates asking: If casino built, what's in it for community?

Advocate wants community benefit agreement included in discussions about Woodbine casino expansion project

Hibaq Gelle wants the voice of Rexdale community members to be heard as part of the Woodbine casino project.

CONTRIBUTED.

Hibaq Gelle wants the voice of Rexdale community members to be heard as part of the Woodbine casino project.

Hibaq Gelle isn’t necessarily opposed to a casino project coming to Rexdale. She just wants to know what’s in it for her community.

“We need to see exactly how some of those dollars will be reinvested,” said the area resident and a Studio Y fellow at MaRS Discovery District.

Council voted last summer in favour of a complete casino at Woodbine Racetrack in North Etobicoke. The narrow vote came after the city had rejected the idea of a gaming expansion in downtown Toronto.

Details are still scant, but one of the city’s conditions was for the casino proposal to include construction of an integrated entertainment complex.

Gelle, a community activist, is concerned the project may not take into account the needs of local residents. Before construction starts in 2018, she wants both the city and the gaming industry to provide a “community benefit agreement” detailing the importance of the project for Rexdale residents.

“There is a lot of poverty here and staggering rates of unemployment,” she said, explaining why the community needs to organize in order to get the most economic and social benefits from the casino investment.

The city claims as many as 1,400 jobs could be created by the casino expansion, but some worry most of them will be low-paying service jobs.

“We want good jobs, good training and good infrastructure to come to Rexdale as part of the project,” Gelle said.