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Ontario's Big Gamble

Published: February 25, 2013 1:31 pm ET

Last Comment: February 25, 2013 4:53 pm ET | 3 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Sun News Network has examined the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corp.'s controversial gaming plan in a special three-part series, and what could be the most contentious strategy item is still yet to hit the province.

To breakdown how the governing Liberals envision the future of gaming in the province versus the opposition Progressive Conservatives, Kelly Pedro of the London Free Press provides the following key points in Part 1 .

The Liberal plan:

- Create 29 gaming zones bundled for private operators to bid and build a casino in each zone. Some zones, such as London and the Waterloo Region, call for both slots and table games. OLG would oversee and regulate the industry

- Move some facilities to more densely populated areas

- Have private operator build new casino resort in the GTA, preferably downtown Toronto

- Launch online gaming site — — in the fall, allowing Ontarians to play the lottery or gamble online

- Cut the horse-racing industry’s $345 million take from slot revenue at racetracks as of March 31. Horse racing would continue at some of the 14 tracks but others would close

The PC plan:

- Get government out of the gambling business and instead become a tough regulator

- Regulate existing online gaming sites

- Wind down OLG, privatize lotteries, casino assets and slot operations and give horse-racing industry first crack at buying gaming operations

- If casinos are miracle solution, add table games to racetrack slots that have proven existence and community support

- Have local referendum so communities can decide for themselves if they want a casino

In Part 2, Pedro delves deeper into who will be hit hardest by the OLG's modernization strategy: Ontario's horse racing industry and rural Ontario.

“This was just like a guillotine,” said former Ontario Racing Commission Chair Stan Sadinsky, noting that the province should have mapped out a better plan that didn't cripple the province's breeding industry.

“The fallout has been severe and we’ve seen communities in rural Ontario become devastated with the loss of the horse-racing industry,” said provincial NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. “Thousands of jobs lost and hundreds of small businesspeople put out of business. It’s been quite a fiasco.”

While land-based gaming is nothing new to the OLG, Part 3 of the feature looks at the part of the modernization that's a complete unknown: online gambling, with interactive casino-style games and online lottery ticket sales, another move panned by Horwath who calls it "click your mouse, lose your house kind of gaming."

Dave Bryans, chief executive of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association, notes the jury is still out on how this will impact business for the province's convenience stores. These stores sell more lottery tickets than anyone, and Bryans doesn't see that changing.

“I’m not saying it’s all doom and gloom — we have to reinvent ourselves and that is working with your partners like lottery,” he said. “The future is sort of mysterious but we have to understand that we are the biggest deliverer of lottery sales to this government and we’ll continue to be and let’s see where we go with all of them together."

February 25, 2013 - 4:53 pmAre the Liberals trying to

Peggy Powell SAID...

Are the Liberals trying to make gaming the backbone of Ontario's economy? Do they really think that this is a good idea? Do they think that selling all that is good in Ontario to the US is a good idea? Do they think that preying on the weak and vulnerable is the way to balance their books? Finally ,do they really think ,that by eliminating part of our heritage (horse racing) and thousands of jobs, ruining so many peoples lives and replacing all of this with grandioso casinos,that they might be able to go down in history as anything else but the most corrupt,dispicable, unethicle and truly the worst government that this province has ever had? I don't think so, but if so, they should make use of our Health care system and have their heads examined.. Over the past year, we, in the horse racing industry have learned some hard and valuable lessons from the Liberals.We have learned not to make a great success of your business if your partnered with the government because they have the power to walk in and take it all away in an instant and if they don't have that power they will pass new laws to make sure that they do. We have also learned that the wishes of the rural people , whom are the real backbone of our province, mean nothing to this government. I am afraid to think of where this government will take us if they are allowed to stay in power any longer .They need to go, NOW!!!!

February 25, 2013 - 4:33 pmI just watched a press

I just watched a press conference where the premier was finally asked a couple of questions about gaming. She stated that she still was in "favour" of municipalities being able to determine whether they host a casino or not through use of a referendum. However no follow-up question was asked how she was going to ensure that would happen. Then she was asked about revenues and stated that "yes the government was in the gaming business and needed to make every effort to maximize revenue and that was reason for the OLG modernization plan" No follow-up questions. So Ms.Wynne has now publicly state on more than one occasion that the OLG plan would go ahead and in my own opinion no reporting from a select committee or reasoned argument as to the unintended consequences that it has for the horse racing industry will be considered. So now the so-called modernization plan for Ontario horse racing should be tabled by somebody and not done in the dark.

February 25, 2013 - 2:34 pmThe OLG (and Liberals) know

Randy Young SAID...

The OLG (and Liberals) know full well that if Referendums were required ... as was the case before they subtly changed the Lottery and Gaming Act ... that about 70% of there Gaming Zones would be a no go ... which is exactly why they changed the Act.

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