News

OLG eyes contracting out day-to-day operations

By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

OLG (QMI Agency files)

OLG (QMI Agency files)

TORONTO - 

Cash-strapped Ontario is looking to boost gaming profits by contracting out the day-to-day operation of its lottery business.

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) would not confirm a report that telecom behemoths Rogers and Bell Canada are on a shortlist of bidders.

An OLG news release says the plan calls for the selection of “one service provider to run specific day-to-day operations of the lottery business in Ontario.”

OLG spokesman Tony Bitonti said the winning bidder will look at how and where lottery tickets are sold.

In British Columbia, for example, buyers don’t have to stand in separate lineups to purchase their groceries and lottery tickets.

“We’re looking specifically for companies to take over the terminals — the network of the system ... Some of our terminals are 10 years old, 15 years old,” Bitonti said Monday. “We want to know: Are we in the best places?”

The winning bidder will also develop new lottery games, but the OLG will maintain oversight and continue to pay out the prizes, he said.

“We’re still signing the cheque,” Bitonti said.

OLG will pay a bidder up to $750,000 - $650,00 for costs associated with submitting a response to the RFP and $100,000 to cover a non-refundable application fee.

A spokesman for Rogers said the company doesn’t comment on “rumours or speculation,” and Bell representatives could not be reached for comment.

OLG will not be releasing the names of the companies who made the shortlist due to commercial sensitivities, Bitonti said.

The OLG said it has used a “fairness monitor” to ensure oversight and integrity of its selection process.

The Kathleen Wynne government, which is staring down a $12.5-billion deficit this year, is seeking maximum profit out of publicly owned agencies such as OLG and just last week announced it will proceed with the sale of LCBO lands in downtown Toronto to help finance transportation projects.

The government has been seeking to “modernize” the OLG as casino profits dwindle and younger players turn to online gambling.

The OLG pours $2 billion a year into the Ontario treasury, the government’s largest source of non-tax revenue, but hopes to increase that annual payout to $3 billion, Bitonti said.

One of OLG’s new offerings this fall is internet gaming where customers can play video slots and poker and also buy Lotto 649, Lotto Max and Encore tickets.

“But you can only do it on a computer right now,” Bitonti said. “There’s no app for it, so that’s something that may come out of this (contracting out) too.”

Progressive Conservative MPP Vic Fedeli said the Wynne government is desperate to raise revenues to combat its large deficit but refuses to address its spending problem.

“They’re looking for any nickels under the couch to balance the budget,” Fedeli said.

According to an OLG lottery player demographics face sheet posted at its website, 49% of Ontario adults have played the lottery in the last two months and 74% would consider buying a ticket in the next six months.

The average age of so-called “core players,” those who buy a lottery ticket or more every week, is 52.

“As a whole, lottery players tend to be 35-54, men and women with higher rates of employment and a slightly higher household income than non players,” the site says.

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