Upset that, as they lose their slot machines, province’s bingos are getting new electronic games
The machines, which came to two bingo halls in Sudbury late last year, operate similarly to slot machines, but are not slots in the traditional sense. One machine offers electronic bingo, another offers an electronic version of the break-open Nevada tickets, while a third machine is “a collection of electronic games that can be played anytime, with great prizes to be won,” according to the Ontario Lottery Corporation’s website.
The machines have angered some in the horse-racing community because of their similarity to slot machines.
Last spring, the province announced it was ending its slots program at Ontario’s racetracks that provided money for the horse-racing industry through slots facilities located in racetracks.
The industry received a share of gambling revenue, money they say is needed to keep most Ontario tracks open.
In Sudbury, owners of Sudbury Downs say they have no plans to offer horse racing again, since the racing season is over and the slots agreement with the province expires in March.
The OLG is expected to sign a temporary deal with the Downs to host gambling until a new, full-fledged casino is built in the next two or three years somewhere in the city.
But news that bingos in the province are getting the gambling machines has some in the horse racing community seeing red. They say it’s not fair that bingos are getting special treatment while they were offered nothing.
“The terminals are self-contained, and have computer-generated symbols that look exactly like slot machines,” writes Trot Magazine editor Darryl Kaplan. “With names like Hot N Saucy and Dynamite Diamonds they sound exactly like slot machines. And with the ability to take cash and return payout receipts, they act the same as slot machines.”
The article argues that taxpayers are losing out on revenue because bingos don’t share revenue with the province on the same scale that the slots facilities do.
However, bingo profits go to local charities — $43 million since the gambling machines were introduced under a pilot program in 2005, the OLG says.
Ward 3 Coun. Claude Berthiaume, whose ward includes Sudbury Downs, said he’s heard from people in his riding that the bingos are getting slots machines, but that’s not the case.
“They’re bingo machines, not slot machines,” Berthiaume said. “I’m not sure exactly what (the OLG) is doing, but they do seem to be treating the bingos a little differently than they are Sudbury Downs or harness racing.”
Slots machines or not, Berthiaume said the two bingo halls in Sudbury are getting only a handful of the machines, a far cry from the 400 slot machines at Sudbury Downs.
Berthiaume said the issue is one he’ll likely raise when OLG officials come to town Jan. 29 to update city council on the casino process.
While there has been speculation that the casino will end up downtown, Ward 10 Coun. Fran Caldarelli said that, in her mind that’s the worst location.
“When you have a casino downtown, where it’s very, very accessible, the people who are going in there are probably the ones who really can’t afford to be there putting money into those machines,” Caldarelli said Jan. 15.
“I’ve had a lot of phone calls from people who are saying to me, please don’t put a casino downtown. A lot of people seem to be quite concerned about that.”
The OLG is expected to solicit private-sector bids to build the casinos sometime in March, the next major step in the process. It’s expected that private sector operators will be able to bid to build casinos in more than one gaming zone in Ontario.
In the press release announcing the electronic bingo machines, the OLG said Boardwalk Gaming and Valley Bingo centres in Sudbury would be able to “offer customers new electronic versions of traditional games that have been played at bingo centres for years.
“These new electronic games, including Break Open Ticket dispensers, will complement the existing paper bingo games, giving customers more choice.”
“We are pleased these new electronic games will bring more fun, choice and excitement to the charitable gaming experience,” said Rod Phillips, president and CEO of OLG, in the Nov. 30 press release. “The revitalization of charitable gaming in Ontario is vital to local charities, providing them with a long-term means to fundraise in the community.”
“Charitable gaming centres provide substantial support for many local causes and, so far this year, Boardwalk Gaming has raised $1.8 million in funds for the community,” Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci says in the release. “This support means local charities can continue to thrive and continue their good work for all of us in Sudbury.”