OLG officials Paul Godfrey and Tony Bitonti have fanned out across the province, pitching to local councils the golden vision that will generate and rejuvenate downtown city centres and fill municipal coffers with cash.
They pressure councils to quickly jump at the opportunity or say they will offer it to your neighbouring municipality. They remind me of carnival barkers trying to lure you in to play their game of chance.
They extoll the virtues of hosting such facilities in a glossy presentation, but offer no cost-benefit analysis. They do not say how much money the municipalities can expect to garner, how much the operators of these facilities will pocket, or how much will go to Queen’s Park.
Hamilton receives five per cent of the revenues at Flamboro Downs through the Slots at Racetracks program, which amounted to $4.6 million in 2011. Likewise, Sudbury received $2.5 million in 2011.
Under the modernization plan, the province will be terminating the Slots at Racetracks program as of March 31, 2013. This program generated $1.1 billion profit for the province, and supports 60,000 jobs in horse racing and related industries across Ontario, including 500 in the Sudbury area.
This revenue sharing agreement gave the province 75 per cent, the racetrack 10 per cent, the horsemen 10 per cent and the municipality five per cent.
The province and the OLG rightly felt the wrath of host municipalities and horse groups across the province for the abrupt termination of this program.
The province has responded to this pressure by appointing a three-man commission to report back to the government regarding the sustainability of the horse racing industry post-March 2013, when the Slots at Racetracks agreement is set to end.
It appears that our local council has succumbed to the pressure of the carnival barkers. The economic development department has helped to create the illusion of grand development in our downtown, even offering up land owned by the city.
In Sudbury Downs, you have a location that has a 38-year history of gaming, and a 14-year history of hosting slots, an infrastructure that is already in place and that can be easily expanded to accommodate table games or other enhanced gaming activities.
A proper cost-benefit analysis must be requested by the city councillors before recommending a short list of candidates to host a new gaming facility.
The city could take its share, which, would be at a minimum the current $2.5 million, or perhaps higher if the city receives a share of the table game revenues, and designates these monies to fund a new arena in our downtown core.
Member of the Northern Horsemen’s Association