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The Globe and Mail

Great Canadian Gaming, Brookfield chosen to run Toronto-area casinos

The entrance to the OLG Slots at Woodbine in Toronto.

J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

A full-fledged casino is likely in the cards for Toronto after two Canadian companies won a bid to run three Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. facilities in the province.

Under the deal announced Tuesday, Great Canadian Gaming Corp. (TSX:GC) and Brookfield Business Partners LP (TSX:BBU.UN) will acquire OLG Slots at Woodbine, OLG Slots at Ajax Downs and the Great Blue Heron Casino located in the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation.

The two companies would also have the exclusive right to operate the facilities for a minimum of 22 years.

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For subscribers: The big bet to bring excitement back to Woodbine racetrack

OLG said in its procurement process that it was looking for up to 5,000 electronic games and up to 400 gaming tables for the Woodbine facility in east Toronto, and the city of Toronto has granted conditional approval to such a casino.

Mayor John Tory said in a statement that creating jobs and economic development opportunities are key conditions that must be met before the expansion of gaming at the Woodbine facility.

Great Canadian Gaming and Brookfield said in a joint statement that their improvements to the three sites would increase local job and economic opportunities.

"This development (subject to approvals) and modernization will include integrated property expansions that will enhance the gaming offerings to service the GTA market," they said in the statement. "It will also include leading world-class amenities consisting of state-of-the-art conference facilities, hotels and premier entertainment venues."

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa said he is "extremely excited" about the deal and the prospect of a full-fledged Toronto casino.

"That's what has been the purpose of the whole revitalization and modernization of the product of the OLG," he said. "(It's) a huge investment coming into the community, a lot more jobs being created and more entertainment and destination opportunities for the region."

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Tourism and Culture Minister Eleanor McMahon said she wasn't concerned that a Toronto casino could draw visitors away from other venues in the province.

"The growing tourism sector can only benefit from a substantial venue like that," she said. "The fact that we have such a broad offering in Ontario of tourism venues, having one more just, again, creates greater interest and I think just adds to the reasons to come to Ontario."

The Woodbine, Ajax Downs and Great Blue Heron locations have a total of more than 4,000 slot machines, 60 table games and employ more than 2,200 people. Great Canadian Gaming would operate the facilities and hold a 49 per cent stake in the partnership.

Brookfield would also hold a 49 per cent stake, while Clairvest Group Inc. would hold a two per cent interest.

After the announcement, shares in Great Canadian soared by 14.3 per cent on the Toronto Stock Exchange in early morning trading, while stock in Brookfield was up 3.4 per cent.

Great Canadian Gaming has 22 gaming properties including 14 casinos, four racetrack casinos, three community gaming centres, one commercial bingo hall and resort hotels in Richmond, B.C., and in Moncton, N.B.

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