July 28, 2015

Table gambling, additional slots at Woodbine one step closer to reality

June 30, 2015 - An expanded casino at Woodbine Racetrack moved one step closer to reality after sailing through Mayor John Tory’s inner circle.

The executive committee, a cabinet-like body of Toronto councillors, approved a proposal to allow table gambling and up to 2,000 more slot machines at the facility. The expansion must still pass full council next week, where social costs will again be weighed against economic gains.

Mr. Tory has consistently said he is open to an expanded casino in the city’s northwest corner only if it comes in the context of a broader entertainment complex.

“I am interested in ‎this because of jobs and because of what the gambling can do to serve as a catalyst to attract additional investment,” he said Tuesday. “My principal motivation for this is attracting jobs to a part of the city that desperately needs them.”

A staff report recommended council support for an expanded facility at Woodbine, noting that the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation had estimated that ‎the city’s annual revenues could climb from $15.5-million to between $22.5-million and $26.5-million.

The expansion would allow for the introduction of table gambling, with up to 300 eight-seat live dealer tables, and a rise to a maximum of 5,000 slots‎, more than double the number now at Woodbine.

Mr. Tory’s support for expansion was echoed by his executive, ‎but came after sharp questions about gambling addiction, other options for Woodbine and whether any hotels, retail or other corollary development could be guaranteed.

After a marathon meeting, the proposal was eventually passed late Tuesday by a 10-3 majority. It is expected to get a rougher ride when it lands before the full council.

Downtown councillor Joe Cressy, who is not on the executive committee, would not predict how the next round of the debate will go. But he urged his fellow councillors not to buy into what he characterized as a dying industry that makes a disproportionate amount of its money off problem gamblers.

“There are serious issues, social and health, associated with casinos,” he said. “Why would we bring in a form of economic growth that preys on those who are at their weakest point.”

That argument is likely to be a foreshadow of the coming debate, where worries about the social costs will again be pitted against those who say that the economically depressed Rexdale area needs the jobs.

Local councillor Vincent Crisanti said Tuesday that his ward was strongly in favour of expansion.

“The electronic casino at Woodbine has been operating without incident‎ since 2000,” he said, acknowledging later that he couldn’t be sure some gamblers hadn’t got in over their heads.

“The [Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation] will continue to invest in the responsible gaming initiatives that will mitigate those concerns.”

Mr. Crisanti predicted the push to expand Woodbine would pass full council, noting that it came close a few years ago, when it was connected to a highly controversial ‎proposal to put a casino downtown.

(With Files from The Globe and Mail)

OLG Pens Letter To Horse Racing

June 26, 2015 - In a letter dated Thursday (June 25), representatives from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA) provided an update on the process of integrating horse racing with the province’s gaming strategy.

The letter appears below.


A Message To The Ontario Horse Racing Industry

For the first time, representatives from the horse racing industry, the Government of Ontario and crown agencies are working together in support of a sustainable industry.

Following government direction first announced in October 2013, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA), are working with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, the Ontario Racing Commission, government and the broader horse racing industry on a number of initiatives that will help develop the industry and grow the horse racing customer base. The government, OLG and OHRIA restated their support for integration at a meeting in February 2015.

The overall goal of integration is to build the foundation for a sustainable horse racing industry in Ontario, but achieving that goal will take time and a significant amount of work. For many months, OLG and OHRIA have been working with the government to lay the groundwork for success.

As part of this collaborative effort, a committee structure has been established to guide the many areas involved in integration. Comprised of senior representatives from both OLG and the industry, the Horse Racing Industry Executive Committee is providing decisive leadership and guidance by:

  • Creating a business model for integration that is focused on stability
  • Determining an appropriate funding framework to ensure long-term sustainability
  • Providing advice to the government and supporting future legislative changes
  • Partnering with the industry to optimize branding and build public awareness about horse racing
  • Reviewing and assessing new horse-themed gaming products

The Industry Executive Committee meets bi-weekly. Joining us on the committee are: Preet Dhindsa (OLG), Richard Carson (OLG), Michael Keegan (OLG), Tina MacMillan (OLG), Jean Major (AGCO), John Snobelen (Ontario Horse Racing), Steven Lehman (Ontario Racing Commission), Jim Lawson (Woodbine Entertainment Group) and Hugh Mitchell (Western Fair District).

Our committee is supported by the work of other groups, including the Interim Governance Committee (IGC). Chaired by John Snobelen, the IGC is developing options for improving industry self-governance and is building the capacity necessary for effective partnerships with OLG. Read a recent update from John here.

One of our committee’s objectives is to begin to communicate regularly with members of OHRIA and the public about the progress being made on integration so that we can build a narrative to increase confidence in the long-term future of horse racing. We are working together on several initiatives and will have more to discuss in the coming weeks.

Sincerely,

Stephen Rigby, President and CEO, OLG and Chair of the Industry Executive Committee

Sue Leslie, President and Chair, OHRIA and member of the Industry Executive Committee

 

Bitonti On Branding Discussions

June 12, 2015 -

Spokesman Tony Bitonti has said that the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. is collaborating with the provincial horse racing industry in an effort to come up with branding options in conjunction with racing’s integration into the OLG’s gaming modernization process.

Bitonti’s comment have come via an article on the matter by the Toronto Star.

“OLG is working with the horse racing industry to explore branding options for horse racing,” Bitonti was quoted as saying. “This is all part of our commitment to the integration of horse racing into the provincial gaming strategy.”

The Toronto Star report centres on a claim that there had been some consideration for the OLG’s corporate name to be adjusted to reflect the inclusion of horse racing.

The article quoted Bitonti as saying that “OLG is not rebranding or changing its name.”

Instead, Bitonti said that the OLG “will use its marketing expertise to explore an effective consumer-facing brand to support a sustainable horse racing industry in Ontario.”

(With files from the Toronto Star and Standardbred Canada)

Industry Governance Committee Formed

June 9, 2015 -

In an open letter to Ministers Leal and Sousa, John Snobelen outlines the mandate of the Horse Racing Interim Governance Committee as it pertains to the integration of horse racing and gaming.


June 1, 2015

The Honourable Jeff Leal
Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

The Honourable Charles Sousa
Minister of Finance

Dear Ministers:

Thank you for your recent announcement of an Interim Governance Committee to assist in the integration of horse racing and gaming.  At your request, I am pleased to serve as the independent chair of the committee.

As you know, Premier Wynne announced the government’s intention to integrate horse racing into gaming in October 2013. Integration will benefit both the industry and the provincial gaming strategy.

Earlier this year, both of you and Minister Meilleur led a meeting with the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA) to discuss initiatives that will forward integration.

These initiatives include transferring the regulation of horse racing to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), expanding the mandate of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) to include horse racing and improving industry governance in partnership with the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA).

These structural changes will require approval by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.  In advance of consideration by the Legislature, several integration imperatives require input from the industry. These include:

-              Developing options for improving industry self-governance;
-              Building industry capacity to effectively partner with OLG;
-              Exploring opportunities for increasing pari-mutuel wagering;
-              Establishing measures to ensure accountable use of taxpayers dollars;
-              Providing advice on non-regulatory transition to OLG; and
-              Considering other issues related to integration.

The Horse Racing Interim Governance Committee will consult broadly on these issues with representatives of the horse racing and gaming industries: OHRIA, OLG, ORC and AGCO.

OMAFRA has researched the governance and regulation of horse racing in other jurisdictions and the committee will benefit from this effort.

The committee includes Sue Leslie, representing the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association, and Michael Keegan, representing the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.

In charging this committee, you specifically referenced the need to be mindful of the impact of horse racing on the economy of rural Ontario.  With this in mind, I am pleased to report that the committee will benefit from the assistance of Mr. Greg Walling, who brings a wealth of experience in the economics of our smaller track venues.

The committee understands the urgency in addressing these issues in cooperation with OLG, AGCO and ORC.  We will begin our work immediately.

I will update you on a regular basis and will provide specific recommendations as soon as we are able to make them.

Thank you for your continued support of and advocacy for the Ontario horse racing industry.  Your commitment to a successful and sustainable future for horse racing is encouraging to the thousands of people who proudly earn their living working to continue the great traditions of horse racing in Ontario.

Sincerely,
John Snobelen

Cc:          The Honourable Madeleine Meilleur, Attorney General
Stephen Rigby, President and CEO, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation
Jean Major, CEO, Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario
Steve Lehman, Executive Director, Ontario Racing Commission
Scott Thompson, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Finance
Deb Stark, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

(OHR)

Update On Integration With OLG

Sue Leslie, President of the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association, recently spoke on the process of integrating horse racing with the province’s gaming arm — the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.

The update was part of an audio interview posted on the OHRIA website.

“Well,” Leslie said with a sigh to interviewer Norm Borg, “integration continues to be a very slow process, unfortunately. I do believe that the people involved at OLG and the province are sincerely working with us and trying to move integration along.

“The more involved we get in it, the more complex it becomes and, as you know, OLG were operating for some time without a CEO. Stephen Rigby now is in charge over there and I’ve found him to be very demonstrative, very willing to work with us, a good communicator. And so I think that getting him in place is going to help the process a lot.”

Leslie noted that one of the key individuals working on the integration process — Larry Flynn, Senior Vice President of Gaming at OLG — is retiring at the end of the month after 14 years.

“[Larry] probably understood our industry better than most there so that will be a little bit of a setback but I know he’s been briefing Stephen (Rigby) like crazy. We have had excellent communication, and I have had excellent communication. I think Phil Olsson, the Chair, has done a good job in the selection there.”

Noting that she’s well aware of the frustration on the horse racing industry side, Leslie offered reasons for those wondering why the process isn’t moving as quickly as everyone would like.

“The frustration is hard to take some days. I know the OHRIA Product Committee, who’s been working for months now to get something up and moving, sure has their frustrating days…but you’re trying to satisfy two regulators, you’re trying to satisfy legislation, you’re trying not to cannibalize existing products, and figure out how strategically a product will work to increase money both for the province and horse racing. It is a very complex issue.”

In addition to this integration, Leslie notes that there is still some discussion at the government level on where the horse racing industry should be placed and reporting to: OLG or OMAFRA.

“Those things are all being discussed right now to try and figure out both how the government should be governed as it pertains to horse racing…if we’re actually going to become a part of OLG, which is what the Premier wants — us to be fully integrated. Well, if we’re going to be fully integrated, that’s a big step.

“So, we need to make decisions on the governance on the government side and we also need to finalize governance on the industry side. Are the right people sitting at the table? How should that move forward? How should it work with OHR, ORC, AGCO, not to mention all the industry members…so we’re looking at that model to see if the existing model really or does that need to be tweaked somehow. Or does some type of interim governance model make sense as we go through integration and transition. Not to make excuses but they are very time-consuming.”

Leslie concluded the integration discussion with assurance and confidence that those involved have the best interests of horse racing in their scope of vision.

“All I can say is I believe OHRIA is working hard and both OLG and government — Minister Leal at OMAFRA has been terrific, I really believe Minister Leal cares about horse racing and he has his staff working diligently on all these things too. We’re trying to marry it all together — the agencies, the ministries, the industry — and come up with a formula that is going to work best for the future for everybody.”

To listen to the full interview, with Leslie’s thoughts on the new tapeta surface going in at Woodbine Racetrack as well as the Pari-Mutuel Tax Reduction, click the play button below.


New OLG President/CEO Announced

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) has announced the appointment of Stephen Rigby as President and Chief Executive Officer, starting January 5, 2015.

“Stephen Rigby was chosen for his skills and experience in leading organizational change,” said Philip Olsson, Chair of OLG’s Board of Directors. “The Board is confident that Mr. Rigby has the ideal experience for the job and will follow through on OLG’s renewal plan. Under his leadership, OLG will keep its focus on responsible gambling while building a strong lottery, gaming, charitable gaming and iGaming industry.”

Mr. Rigby has led major transformations as President of the Canada Border Services Agency and in the role of Associate Deputy Minister of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Most recently, Mr. Rigby was the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Canada.

As OLG’s new President & CEO, Stephen Rigby will lead an organization supported by 7,000 employees throughout the province. OLG is responsible for 24 gaming sites and sales of lottery products at approximately 9,800 retail locations. At approximately $2 billion annually, OLG provides the Ontario government with its largest source of non-tax revenue. Modernization will help OLG provide more money to Ontario for health care and education. Mr. Rigby will also lead OLG as it integrates horse racing into the provincial gaming strategy to further the Ontario government’s commitment to a sustainable industry.

“I am eager to begin my role with the OLG Board and management team at this critical point in OLG’s transition,” said Stephen Rigby. “I will be focused on helping to ensure OLG is offering its customers the best possible lottery and gaming entertainment experience for the benefit of the people and the Province of Ontario.”

OLG reports through its Board of Directors to Ontario’s Minister of Finance. Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance, stated: “I look forward to working with Mr. Rigby as he leads OLG in its continued modernization to increase returns supporting important priorities for Ontarians, including health care and education, while promoting a sustainable horse racing industry.”

OLG is a provincial agency responsible for province-wide lottery games and gaming facilities. Since 1975, OLG has provided nearly $40 billion to the Province and the people of Ontario. OLG’s annual payments to the Province have helped support health care; education, research, prevention and treatment of problem gambling; amateur sport through the Quest for Gold program; and local and provincial charities.

(OLG)
(Standardbred Canada)

Racing-Gaming Integration Update

“I look forward to the future. I think the right people are sitting at the table to move this forward now, and the cooperation is there.”

In an update posted to the OHRIA website, Sue Leslie discusses the status of the long sought-after reintegration of Ontario’s horse racing industry with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. One problem that’s a current impediment, according to Leslie, is that there is still some lack of clarity on what exactly “integration” means.

“There’s been a little bit of a delay in pushing hard forward because all of us — both on the horse racing side and in the OLG — are trying to make sure that we really understand what Premier Kathleen Wynne and her government means by integration,” Leslie told Norm Borg. “So we’re trying to get a more well-defined description of what the government’s view of integration is and that should be forthcoming very shortly.

“The cooperation is there; obviously with what we’ve all been through, and as much as we really don’t have sympathy for OLG, this has been a difficult two years for them, too. They haven’t had a lot of stability in terms of their leadership at OLG. To [OLG Chair] Phil Olsson’s credit, he is starting now to gel that and gel his board.”

By “very shortly”, Leslie indicated that she’s hopeful that answer would come “in the next couple of weeks.”

On the side of horse racing is, according to Leslie, the majority government in Ontario that should help expedite any future projects. There are some “short-term” projects on the table now that, according to Leslie, would take less time to realize than others. Details on those products were not elaborated on in fairness to those currently working on them.

Leslie and Borg also discuss the recent announcements pertaining to Fort Erie and the Standardbred yearling crop as well as the idea of establishing a marketing fund for racing from the province’s purse pool. To listen to the full interview, click the link below.

Racing-Gaming Integration Update

Bidding War At OLG?

It was announced today (Monday, September 8) that the Ontario Government is seeking a service provider to operate specific areas of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.’s lucrative lottery business.

News of the announcement broke Monday morning, with the Toronto Star, pegging Canadian telecommunications giants Bell and Rogers as expected bidders on the contract.

The OLG is not looking to privatize; the Ontario government would still retain ownership and would continue to oversee the operations.

(SC)

On Monday afternoon, the OLG issued the following press release.


OLG BEGINS RFP PHASE OF LOTTERY PROCUREMENT

September 8, 2014

TORONTO – The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) has initiated the final phase of its procurement process for lottery by issuing Request for Proposal (RFP) documents to pre-qualified service providers.

The RFP will enable OLG to select one service provider to run specific day-to-day operations of the lottery business in Ontario.

To OLG, the integrity of the procurement process is of the utmost importance. Procurement involves information of a commercially sensitive nature. As a result, details of the RFP documents and names of pre-qualified proponents will not be released while the process is ongoing. There will be no further communication about the RFP until a service provider is announced. OLG expects to announce the successful service provider in fall 2015.

Throughout the procurement process, OLG has engaged the services of a Fairness Monitor to provide oversight and advice to support integrity and fairness.

At approximately $2 billion annually, OLG provides the Ontario government with its largest source of non-tax revenue. Modernization will help OLG provide more money to Ontario for hospitals and other government priorities.

OLG to Integrate Ontario’s Horse Racing Business by End of August

By:  Freelance Sports writer, Published on Fri Aug 22 2014

 

For nearly 15 years, Ontario horse racing tracks have been home to two very different types of people. On one side, the casino player wants to pull a handle or spin a wheel and have instant results.

Behind the casino walls, horse racing bettors study and decipher an age-old sport, supporting an industry that is of significant importance to this province. Other than the slots-at-racetracks partnership program that shared revenue between the two groups, never did the two businesses crossover.

However, before the end of August, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation chairman Philip Olsson and team members will sit down with key members of the horse racing industry to begin the process of true integration.

The integration of horse racing into the OLG’s modernization plan for gaming was brought about by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who inherited a horse racing industry that was close to being wiped out by the cancellation of that slots-at-racetrack program two years ago by former Premier Dalton McGuinty and former OLG chairPaul Godfrey.

In October 2013, Wynne received a five-year partnership plan report from her Horse Racing transition panel of John Snobelen, Elmer Buchanan and John Wilkinson. That included a $500 million subsidy over five years to assist horse racing in the immediate future and recommendations on the melding of racing and the OLG critical to the future of the industry.

The process has been painstakingly slow out of the gate but the sides are now ready to analyze products and proposals.

“Any product or idea that has been put forward will be completely analyzed for its pros and cons: what will produce the best results for both horse racing and the OLG, the legal ramifications, etc.,” said Sue Leslie, chair of the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association which will meet with Olsson this month.

“It has been frustrating that it has taken this long but there were a lot of approvals needed and a lot of red tape. But the relationship between the groups is very good and we are getting close now.”

Leslie said that there are many products and ideas to be discussed, including some innovative plans that would be developed by OLG and partnered with racing.

And there is not a lot of time to be wasted: breeders of thoroughbreds and standardbreds that did not go out of business in the last two years have been encouraged by tracks such as Woodbine and Mohawk maintaining its purse structure are still hanging on just blades of hay.

Tony Bitonti, spokesman for the OLG, emphasized that there are many parameters that need to be met for a product to fit both horse racing and the OLG.

“Horse racing comes under federal legislation while the OLG is under the Criminal Code and provincial legislation” said Bitonti. “We are starting this integration with racing from square one so we have to find the product that will work best with the provincial and federal laws.”

Lotteries and horse racing could seemingly go hand-in-hand but there are other possible approaches such as new wagers or casino-type games such as the slot-like Instant Racing, which essentially saved racing in Arkansas and has been very successful in parts of Kentucky.

The slot game uses the results of horse races that have previously been run to determine payouts for players.

The popular Swedish bet V75, a lottery style game, generates billions of dollars for horse racing in Sweden and has been mentioned by some horse racing industry members as an option.

In that game, a player can buy a lottery ticket in which the winning numbers correspond to horses racing on tracks, rather than numbered balls from a drum.

The size of the jackpot would be determined by the odds of the horses to win.

“One of the goals is to have something that works for both groups,’ said Bitonti. “But it is important to develop a firm revenue stream for horse racing, so that it does not (only have) government funding. We want to develop and integrate a product between the OLG and horse racing that helps promote growth in racing, increase purses and ensures its survival.”

Racing & Gaming Integration Update

After a series of constructive conversations, representatives of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association are ready to sit down to decide the specifics of how horse racing can best be integrated into the province’s overall gaming strategy.

Sue Leslie, president of OHRIA, made the announcement on Monday.

“The last couple of years have been challenging ones both for the OLG and the Ontario racing industry,” Leslie said. “We are at a point now, though, where we can all begin to take a serious look at some of the intriguing ideas and possibilities that have been put forward by the OLG, OHRIA and the racing industry, at large,” stated Leslie.

According to Leslie, the two groups will review, analyze and recommend innovative products and programs with the ability to further the business and economic objectives of both parties. “We are more than confident that, with the right products in place, horse racing can make a real contribution to the OLG’s bottom line. And, that, in turn, racing will benefit significantly from such a strategic partnership,” Leslie said.

“We need to be mindful that, whatever programs we decide to go forward with, must represent a ‘win/win’ proposition for both entities. That is what a successful partnership is all about.”

(OHRIA)