Why Did OLG Just Cut Racing?
Published: April 16, 2012 8:51 am ET
Last Comment: April 18, 2012 3:49 pm ET | 5 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments
In an interview last week, OLG President and CEO Rod Phillips was asked why the Ontario government ended the slots-at-racetrack program with a drop-dead date of March 2013 instead of working with the industry to discuss a possible phase-out or percentage reduction. Phillips' reply: “I don’t have an answer.”
Phillips was in Kingston recently to reassure those involved with the Thousand Islands Charity Casino site that they were safe. His comments with respect to horse racing were less kind.
“At the end of the day the OLG’s role is to run gaming and lottery and the decision by the government of about where the money goes is a decision by the government,” Phillips told The Whig-Standard.
Phillips' comments touch on a report commissioned by the government in 2008. Penned by a "Strategic Planning Panel", the report was designed to examine the current state of horse racing, consult with stakeholders and create a long-term strategic plan for the future success of the industry in Ontario. On that panel: William McDonnell, a long-term racing industry leader, Jane Stewart (former federal minister of Human Resources) and Stanley Sadinsky (former Chair of the Ontario Racing Commission). Phillips noted that neither racing nor government took heed of the report, referred to by Phillips as a "good piece of thinking" that recommended the slots at racetracks program should continue but with benchmarks established to ensure program viability.
Instead, the government let Ontario's racing industry proceed, continuing to churn billions of dollars into the government coffers, and then made the decision four years later to end the program altogether. Phillips even went so far as to call Sadinsky a "wise man."
"I don't think there's any doubt in this that government is driven by the bottom line here and there should be no misunderstanding on that, but there's also a huge public policy issue involved and that is the survival of an agricultural-based sector of this province that has a long, long history," Sadinsky told CBC's The Current last week.
"There are many jobs associated with the horse racing industry in Ontario, and so the government has a major policy question here as to how to balance what it sees as revenue potential with the impact that it will have with the other sector of the equation."
Both the Ontario Government including Finance Minster Dwight Duncan and the OLG declined CBC's interview request.