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MPP Marchese: OLG Modernization Abandons Public Interest

Published: January 13, 2013 3:42 pm ET

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Calling it "an aggressive expansion of gambling operations with no other consideration than filling government coffers, cheered on by taxpayer-funded ads and lobbyists hired by Las Vegas billionaires," MPP Rosario Marchese has publicly stated his displeasure with the OLG modernization strategy.

Marchese, a member of the New Democratic Party and the MPP for Toronto's Trinity-Spadina distract, issued the following release on the OLG Modernization.

There was once a time when the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) could plausibly claim to be acting in the public interest as it collected lottery and gaming revenue in the province. No longer.

It has become clear that the OLG’s “modernization” campaign represents nothing less than the abandonment of the public interest by a Crown corporation – an aggressive expansion of gambling operations with no other consideration than filling government coffers, cheered on by taxpayer-funded ads and lobbyists hired by Las Vegas billionaires.

Paul Godfrey, the OLG chair, has promised benefits for Toronto that literally cannot be believed. He has claimed that a Toronto casino could “triple” the city’s tourist traffic, an increase equivalent to 85% of the yearly tourist traffic for all of New York City.

Even if a downtown casino attracts only 10% of Mr. Godfrey’s hoped-for tourist traffic, this represents over 11,000 casino visitors every day. Imagine the parking that would be required to accommodate just one-tenth of Mr. Godfrey’s ambitions. Imagine the traffic. Ward 20 councillor Adam Vaughan has pointed out that such a casino would need the parking and traffic capacity of Yorkdale Mall and Sherway Gardens combined.

OLG officials have promised that a downtown Toronto casino would support neighbouring businesses. Again, this is not believable. Casinos are always designed to encourage patrons not to leave, and to consume all food, entertainment, lodgings and other amenities under the same roof. These amenities also tend to be subsidized by the gambling operations as a cost of encouraging more gambling. Not only would a downtown Toronto casino take customers away from existing local businesses, it would compete unfairly, leveraging the power of a privately-run, government-issued monopoly.

Finally, the wild claim that the City of Toronto could reap $400-500 million annually from gambling revenue-sharing has been exposed as another delusion. OLG officials now estimate municipal payouts would be just $50-100 million a year. This won’t even cover the additional costs of hosting a casino, never mind solve the City’s chronic funding shortfalls.

The economic effects on Trinity-Spadina’s businesses and residents are bad enough. Add to this the well-known social and health costs of gambling, and it becomes clear that a downtown Toronto casino is a sucker’s bet.

Please add your voice to the growing chorus of Trinity-Spadina residents who are speaking out against a downtown Toronto casino.

The City has scheduled five community open houses, three of which remain.

Monday, January 14
• Etobicoke Olympium Gymnasium
• 590 Rathburn Road
• 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Thursday, January 17
• Scarborough Civic Centre Rotunda
• 150 Borough Drive
• 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Saturday, January 19
• BlumaAppel Salon
• Reference Library
• 789 Yonge Street
• 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Those opposed to a downtown Toronto casino can attend a public meeting or offer feedback through the City’s online feedback form, available by clicking on the 'Have Your Say ' link at before January 25, 2013.

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