December 19, 2014

OLG and Backers Have Promised Everything To Everyone– Thomas Walkom in Toronto Star

Thomas Walkom put the Toronto casino issue in perspective with the following column in the Toronto Star, March 20, 2013 :

Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.’s casino pitch is like a casino itself. It promises the marks easy picking but neglects to mention that the house always wins.

Indeed, OLG and its private casino backers have promised everything to everyone.

They won over the Liberal provincial government by promising to supply it with pain-free revenues that, miraculously, would materialize without the necessity of raising taxes.

They promised the same to any municipality willing to host a gambling complex.

When Toronto looked as if it might balk, they simply promised more (a pledge they may now have to amend).

In the world of gambling, promises come cheap and hope springs eternal.

Do you need more money for rapid transit? The casino will provide. Health care? Casinos will cover that, too.

Don’t sweat the details of how all of this can happen. When you’re having fun Las Vegas-style, details don’t matter.

Just sit back, spin the slots and wait for the icons to line up.

Almost everything about the OLG’s master plan for Ontario gambling is absurd.

It promised to make lottery operations more efficient by privatizing them. But, as the Star’s Rob Benzie reports, it now finds it can generate sufficient interest only by offering public subsidies to private firms willing to bid.

I would call that weirdly perverse. The OLG, I reckon, would call it a comp.

Then there are the racetrack slots. According to the OLG’s own figures, its racetrack slot machines are profitable. Meanwhile, the resort casinos in Windsor, Niagara Falls and Orillia are losing money.

You or I might focus on expanding the profitable part of the business. Not the OLG. It is shutting down profitable racetrack slots so as to concentrate them in its money-losing casinos.

In the process, it has dealt a body blow to the horse-racing industry in Ontario, an industry that employs between 20,000 and 30,000 full-time.

Don’t worry, says the OLG. It and its casino friends promise new jobs. But when you look closely, those jobs dissolve into the haze.

A 2012 study commissioned by Toronto concluded that when all spin-offs are included a casino would create the equivalent of between 18,000 and 20,000 full-time jobs in the city.

But as that study noted in its fine print, these estimates didn’t take into account any jobs that might be lost or displaced.

Yet job loss and displacement is exactly what we can expect, another study done by the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute pointed out this month,

A casino hotel offering cut-rate rooms will reduce business at existing hotels. Casino construction will siphon jobs from and thus delay other projects.

As to casino jobs themselves, the Martin study points out that most are part-time and few are well paid, with an average wage of about $25,000.

Benefits to the city? The Martin study cites research that shows that when everything (including policing) is taken into account, the costs associated with casinos are between two and seven times larger than any benefits received.

But that is reality and in the world of casino, reality does not matter. Only dreams do.

Casino boosters hosted a job fair in Toronto last week. But they offered no jobs. Instead they offered the dream of jobs.

When Toronto gambling boosters wanted a better deal than, say, Ottawa for hosting a casino, the OLG obliged — even though it had no authority to do so.

Oops. Premier Kathleen Wynne found out and on Wednesday told OLG chair Paul Godfrey to come up with a new funding formula that treated potential host cities equally.

Which, I expect, the OLG will do. There is much money to be made from gambling. The public may not get as much as casino boosters suggest. But someone will.

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OHRIA Backs Member’s Bill Requiring Referendums To Expand Gaming In Ontario

The Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association applauds MPP Monte McNaughton’s private member’s bill, introduced in the Legislature on Thursday April 26, 2012 that would require local referendums prior to allowing new gaming facilities to be constructed.

“We believe this bill is an important step and one that will ensure, just as the OLG Slots at Racetracks Program has done in the past, that only communities that support OLG gaming facilities will host them,” said Sue Leslie, President of the Ontario Horse Racing and Breeding Association.

Both the NDP and PC have spoken in favour of referendums prior to the approval of new gaming facilities, and OHRIA hopes that both parties will unite to push this bill through the legislature prior to the spring recess.

“The Slots at Racetracks Program is a $1.1 billion dollar profit generator for the government of Ontario that was created as a result of wide spread opposition to hosting gaming facilities. The seventeen tracks proved to be willing hosts, in willing communities and the government has reaped the benefit ever since,” said Leslie.

MPP McNaughton’s bill will be voted on at second reading on May 3rd 2012 and if passed at that stage referred to committee for further consideration. New Democrats or Liberal MPPs support will be required to pass the bill.

(OHRIA)