OLG modernization plan panned by auditor general
Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk tables her report on Ontario Lottery and Gaming's modernization plan Monday. (DAVE THOMAS/Toronto Sun)
Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp’s 2012 plan to modernize was “overly ambitious” and “overly optimistic,” as well as needlessly damaging for the province’s horse-racing industry, says Ontario’s auditor general.
Bonnie Lysyk said in a report on OLG’s modernization plan that the Liberal government’s “abrupt” cancellation of the Slots at Racetracks Program in 2012 has had a “significant impact” on the horse-racing industry.
“OLG developed its modernization plan without sufficiently consulting such stakeholders as municipalities and the horse-racing industry,” Lysyk said in a statement Monday. “The profits should have been more realistic, and the abrupt impact on the horse-racing industry could have been mitigated had more people been consulted beforehand.”
Former premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government set the horse-racing industry on its ear in 2012 by scrapping the slots program as part of the OLG modernization plan.
Lysyk said the Grits knew that scrapping the program would have a significant impact on the industry, but proceeded anyway, with only a year’s notice, and provided transition support only after an “outcry” from the horse-racing industry.
Lysyk also asserted that the OLG’s plan to downsize, restructure, and privatize certain aspects of its operations — all within an 18-month period — was “overly ambitious.”
Her report noted the OLG recently lowered its $4.6-billion profit projection for 2013-2018 by 48%, but predicted the real reduction will actually be 60%.
Lysyk said despite the OLG’s plans to increase the number of its casino operations, Toronto and Ottawa rejected proposals for gambling operations, and, as a result, the OLG was left with “significantly lowered net profit projections.”
NDP MPP Wayne Gates complained the slots cancellation resulted in job losses at the track in Fort Erie.
“The ... report makes it clear that the reckless Liberal OLG ... plan was created without a business case, or the data to back that plan,” said Gates. “Liberal policies have cost Ontario jobs, almost shattered ... the horse-racing industry ... and created instability and lost revenue for the entire gaming industry.”
Finance Minister Charles Sousa countered the modernization plan is a “flexible” one and must go forward.
The plan includes increasing the number of casinos, bringing in a private sector service to run some OLG operations and launching an Internet gaming site.