04/10/2013 5:47PM

Ontario auditor general to conduct hearing on province’s gaming strategy

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TORONTO, Ontario – Ontario’s auditor general will conduct a hearing into the province’s gaming strategy, complying with a request from the province’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, a provincial government agency, introduced a “modernization” plan last winter that called for the elimination of the slots-at-racetracks program and created 29 gaming zones in which casinos could be opened.

The slots-at-racetracks program, which allocated 10 percent of net proceeds to the racetracks and to the horsemen, plus 5 percent to hosting municipalities, ended March 31.

The majority of Ontario’s racetracks, including Woodbine and Fort Erie, have signed transitional agreements with the province that will result in some form of financial assistance. The amounts and nature of that assistance will not be made public until agreements have been made with all of the province’s racetracks.

Woodbine and Mohawk, both owned by Woodbine Entertainment Group, were the first to sign transitional agreements and also have negotiated leasing arrangements with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation for their slots premises.
 
“The OLG’s modernization process has ravaged our industry,” said Sue Leslie, chair of the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association.

“Thousands of people have lost their jobs as a result of this rush to dramatically change gaming in Ontario. We formally ask Premier [Kathleen] Wynne to respect that a majority of the legislature has twice in less than a month voted to demonstrate their opposition to the current approach the OLG and government are taking. We urge the Premier to pause OLG modernization until the Auditor General’s report is public.”

The motion, as adopted, calls on the auditor general to investigate all aspects of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s modernization strategy, including the process for tendering, contracting, and planning for all new or proposed casinos; host-city payment formulas; revenue projections and economic impact assessments; community impacts on mental health and/or addiction matters; effects on the slots-at-racetracks program; and consultations to determine whether or not casinos are welcome in proposed communities.