03/12/2012 : Cdn$1.3 billion a year could flow to provincial coffers
Monday's press conference arranged by Ontario provincial officials to discuss internet gambling attracted a good turnout of media representatives, who heard that the province's Liberal government has decided to go ahead with ambitious plans for expanded gambling – both online and on land – in a six year plan that could raise Cdn$ 1.3 million in provincial tax revenues.
Dwight Duncan, the provincial Finance Minister, said that a "socially responsible and secure internet gaming site" run by Ontario Lottery and Gaming will be online by 2013, to help counter money lost to increased competition through offshore internet gambling sites, which have siphoned off about Cdn$400-million from Canadian punters.
Ontario Lottery and Gaming chairman Paul Godfrey briefed reporters on changes to provincial laws that will allow Ontario residents to buy lottery tickets online and at their local Wal-Mart and play the odds at a new Toronto-area land casino under a six-year plan to boost gambling revenues for the cash-strapped province, which is facing a Cdn$ 16 billion deficit this year.
Godfrey revealed that the government is considering the closure or relocation of "underperforming" land gaming facilities in favour of opening new ones closer to potential customers, and expand slots beyond racetracks.
On the chopping block is a revenue-sharing agreement with racetracks that gives them a cut of the land casino slot profits, amounting to Cdn$ 345 million a year. The horseracing industry has warned the move will put thousands of people out of work.
Ontario needs to modernise gambling because offshore internet gaming websites and plummeting U.S. traffic are taking a toll of OLG's revenues – Cdn$2 billion of which goes to the province each year, Godfrey said.
He said the new measures will bring in an extra $4.6 billion over six years, create 2,300 new jobs in the gaming industry and another 4,000 service industry jobs at hotels, restaurants, entertainment and retail industries.
Minister Duncan emphasised that the plans were focused on job creaion and modernisation: "It's about jobs, and it's about updating a Crown corporation that – as we pointed out – has a strategy that was designed in the early 1990s in a very, very different world."
The OLG also plans to expand private sector involvement by having private operators run all its facilities, take over the remaining 4,000 gaming employees who still work for OLG and finance its expansion from 27 facilities to 29 by 2017-18. Private sector assistance would be sought for the new land casino in the Greater Toronto Area and perhaps in Ottawa, Godfrey said.
OLG officials said 26 communities have already expressed interest in hosting a new casino.