McCown: Godfrey's Gone "Goofy" With Gambling

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Published: February 6, 2013 04:51 pm EST

He's lived in Las Vegas. He's pro-gaming. He's the most respected Canadian sports-talk figure there is. He is Bob McCown, and he's the most recent person to come out and say that he is completely against Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. Chair Paul Godfrey's "goofy" gaming modernization plan.

Even though his namesake 'Primetime Bobcat' used to be a world-record holder, McCown has not been shy regarding his frustration with the horse-racing industry over the years. On many occasions he has quickly read racing its pedigree, pointing out some of the glaring issues that have been allowed to percolate relatively unaddressed in the game. One thing is certain, McCown did not take his recent anti-modernization stance to support of the Ontario horse-racing industry, which had a bomb dropped on it early in 2012 when the OLG and the minority Ontario Liberal Government declared it was scrapping the hugely-successful slots-at-racetracks agreement.

McCown's nightly talk-radio show, Primetime Sports, which is heard coast to coast in Canada on Sportsnet TheFan590, usually kicks off its five-o'clock hour with relatively light-hearted banter between himself and the co-host that is joining him that evening. Sometimes 'The Bobcat' and his cohort will discuss hot-dog buns. Sometimes they will discuss even more trivial matters than that. On Tuesday, February 6 the topic was nothing trivial.

On Tuesday, McCown kicked off the five-o'clock hour with his co-host du jour, nationally-respected sports journalist Stephen Brunt, who is both a native and resident of Hamilton, Ont. It's anyone's guess as to whether the topic was planned to be broached or not, but the discussion quickly switched to the topic of casino gaming. Brunt made mention of the current uproar in Hamilton over proposed casino expansion in the city's downtown sector. From there, the topic of Ontario casino expansion was discussed for nine uninterrupted minutes, and before anyone knew it, McCown and Brunt both threw their hats in the ring as being against the OLG's controversial gaming modernization plan -- or at least the casino aspect of it.

In the last year, McCown has allowed Godfrey to briefly discuss elements of the OLG modernization plan on at least two occasions. On Tuesday, McCown, in regard to the modernization, went on the record as saying, "I didn't think he (Godfrey) was going to go that 'goofy' with this gambling stuff."

Whether he knew he was doing it or not, McCown's position on casino gaming, in a way, supported one of the same lines of thinking that the slots-at-racetracks championed: placing gaming locations, for the most part, away from urban areas where people did not want them.

"This voluntary taxation (gambling at casinos) --- what I object to is putting it in every community," McCown said. "I lived in (Las) Vegas, so I can speak to this. The convenience of having a casino, or slot machines in your gas station and in your grocery store and in the 7-11, I've lived that. I had two 'locals' casinos less than a five-minute drive away from my house and then the strip was about 10 or 12 minutes away... they have a little hotel with a couple hundred rooms that hardly ever get used, but it's basically for locals, and the limits are lower, and the atmosphere is a little friendlier, and it's not as ostentatious, and you can find penny machines and nickel machines, and they are not trying to take every last cent out of you, and as a social night out, it is good.

"The dilemma I have is that if you go to Casino Rama or to Fallsview, which are run by the OLG, ostensibly, I think the limits are too high. I understand you are trying to make money, but it's not friendly, in the sense of a gaming standpoint, and the take on the machines is way too high -- and if you think tourists are going to come to Toronto and go to a casino, you're dreaming in Technicolor! You can go anywhere in the world and gamble, and if you want to go someplace on vacation and gamble, you're not coming to Toronto! Ah, you're going to go to Vegas first choice, maybe Atlantic City second choice, Foxwoods in Connecticut... you can go anywhere. The days of attracting tourists -- if they give you that B.S. they are lying through their hats! So, if you want gambling here, you're (the public is) going to pay for it."

Commenting on the recent trend of how some governments have opted to incorporate gaming revenue into their operating budgets, McCown said that revenue derived from gaming is "like crack to the government. It's money. It's revenue," adding that in the past, gaming-derived revenue was initially "all going to go to hospitals, education," but now it "just goes in the general pot."

McCown switched gears in the discussion to that of Ontario's border-located casinos, stating that, "Another thing that bothers me is that they spent $1.4 billion to build Fallsview, and they still have the original Niagara Falls casino that is open.

"There was a time when 90 or 95 per cent of the business that Fallsview was generating was from the United States, so it really was about bringing money in from across the border. Same in Windsor. Those days are over. You have casinos in Detroit. You have a casino in Niagara Falls, New York..."

It was at that point when McCown made the argument that Casino Rama and the Fallsview Casino are having trouble attracting American patrons, and that each of the casinos, to an extent, depend on the Toronto market for patronage.

"Where do Niagara Falls and Rama get their business from?" McCown asked, rhetorically. "Well, interestingly, if you draw the circle around Casino Niagara and Rama, they intersect, basically, in Toronto. So you have half of the people that want to go gamble going to Rama and half the people going to Fallsview, theoretically at least. If you put a casino in Toronto, what percentage of the business are you taking away from the other two places? And, are you taking away so much money that they (Fallsview and Rama) become unsustainable?"

In speaking to the advantages of having rural locations for gaming establishments, something which is front and center in the expiring slots-at-racetracks agreement, McCown stated that the locations can help in terms of controlling problem gambling.

"Right now, if you want to go to Rama or if you want to go to Fallsview if you live in Toronto, you have to make a trip," McCown said. "It's an hour and fifteen, and hour and twenty-minute drive. Maybe you stay overnight. Maybe you have a nice dinner and do some other things. And, as a leisure-time activity, if you do it three of four or five times a year, it's great, nobody gets really badly hurt. You make it a five-minute drive from somebody's house, now you've got a problem."

To conclude his position on the topic, McCown agreed with Godfrey in saying that he doesn't want casino gaming in his neighbourhood (in regard to casino expansion, Godfrey said last month, "… I gotta tell you, I wouldn’t want it in my neighbourhood…").

"You know me, I'm pro-gaming," said McCown. "I have no issue with gaming at all. I'm in favour of it, but I don't want it in my hometown. I've lived in a town that has gaming (Las Vegas), I've seen what it can do -- I've seen what it can do to people for whom it is too convenient. I like the idea that it takes me an hour to get there (to the casino), that I can't just go whenever I want to go, I've got to plan for it, make a trip out of it. I think that inhibits me, limits the times I go. I love when I go, but I don't have a problem."

To listen to the segment, click here on click the play button below. (the discussion regarding Godfrey and Ontario casino expansion starts at roughly the 8:30 mark and runs until the 17:34 mark.)

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Comments

Nobody wants a Casino in their neighbourhood. McCown is correct when he observes that people are not planning to go to Toronto for the Casino. Also when he uses the term "Goofy"

Personally my favourite gambling game is Craps. I live 45 minutes from Rama and I go there 6 times per year for a half day trip each time. I usually eat there and twice I have gone to a show without leaving the Casino. I havent eaten in an Orillia restaurant in over 2 years. Why would I, the Casino offers 5 restaurants and I get vouchers for a free meal every month as well as tickets to any of their shows.

I go to Vegas 3 times per year for an average of 5 days each trip. So I actually gamble 5 times as much in Vegas as I do at the Casino 45 minutes away. The reason is sometimes lost to a non-gambler. I want variety, not just one Casino. I'm sure not going to go to Rama, then to Toronto then to Niagara Falls to play in 3 casinos. Instead I can go to 50 Casinos in Las Vegas and mostly just walk from one to the other. They also have sportsbooks and more shops, restaurants and entertainment than all of Toronto put together.

A Toronto Casino will just take money out of the pockets of the downtown core. The people who work down there will go and they will spend the money they would normally spend on the economy of the business owners already in the city. Rest assured we will create addicts and bankruptcies that will affect our economy and most importantly-families. And what about the cost to the city in Law Enforcement?

Did you know that there are over 2000 Payday loan companies in Canada already? Most have opened in the last 10 years. Our government has opened a whole new business licensening these companies and auditing them as well as overseeing etc which costs more than the racing industry and puts nothing back into the economy.

"Goofy Godfrey" can and must be stopped. If the Liberals don't then they will not have to worry about forming another government for a long time.

Georg Leber-ICR Racing

A very short statement......Good for you Bob!!! Please run for an MLA seat in the next election!

Mr. McCown is one of the sharpest tools in the shed. Some may recall at one time he had a World Record Harness horse, Prime Time Bobcat. I hope the racing community has noticed that there are 11 B Tracks who are signing up to
"rent" their facilities to the OLG Slot "madness". They will reduce the contribution to Harness purses to next to nothing then eventually nothing. Welcome to the brave new World!!

I fully agree with McCown's comments. For anyone to believe that you can build new casino's and offer destination gaming is a complete farce. The public can wager anywhere they want online. Bingo, slots, poker, you name it online gaming offers it. The trouble with online gaming is that nothing goes back to the Government. So why than would you come along and decide that the best thing to do to pay down a provincial deficit is placing new casino's in every major community in the Province? It will not work. The Province will add to its deficit not decrease it.
I wish Godfrey would ask the casino operators that he supports to guarantee the Province of Ontario as much money as it is currently making from their racetrack gaming. Also, what should be included in that payment is the taxes that horse racing jobs contribute to the Province. I guarantee you that the casino operators would want nothing to do with a guaranteed payment. Halifax and Sydney were supposed to be major money makers with new casino's for the Province of Nova Scotia. Instead within a short time of opening major layoffs were made due to decreased earnings from budgeted projections.

Everybody knows it does not make sense, but tell that to the liberals with casino lobbyist in their back pockets ready to finance the next election.

With sport reporters like Dave Perkins and Bob McCown taking on the OLG and Paul Godfrey, there just maybe some hope. What we must remember is that politicians will not buck public opinion. We in the industry have known all along that Godfrey and his "gaming moderation plan" was ill concieved, but it has been difficult to get our voice heard by the general public. Please keep writing letters to the editors of your newspapers and to your MPPs.

The following is a letter I wrote to Ms. Wynne.

I voted last fall for the Liberals and had a sign right in front of my horse farm!I trusted my Liberal party to do the right thing for the tax payers of Ontario. Well e-health, Orng, gas plants and most of all the moderation of the "gaming" industry, which in my opinion will be the biggest disaster of all, will cause me to switch my alliance.
Why is this man Paul Godfrey and Larry Tannenbaum allowed to dictate to we citizens, what The future of our province should be? Forget about the total anguish in the horse racing business, that is bad enough; but just think of an Ontario sprinkled "liberally" with casinos - indeed casinos brought closer to their customers. I am 73 years of age and have 2 children, 6 grand children and 2 great grand children; I don't want them ever to see, thus be tempted to "game"(what a nice euphemism for gambling) in a casino. Remember their motto -"we don't care if you win, we just don't want you to leave". You will find no windows and no clocks in a casino!

Yours Sincerely

Edward W.Wilson

Right on the money, right down to agreeing with Godfrey quote:I don't want a casino in my neighborhood" typical two faced lying statements we have been putting up with in Ontario for too long.