The removal of the slots at racetrack program announced by the OLG to make way for casinos and entertainment centres seems to be hiding the fact that the current formula does make money. The OLG’s new plan is to reach more gamblers by providing a casino in the big cities with Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, and many others all participating in the debate. But the current program helps support Ontario’s horseracing industry as many gamers visit the track not only for betting on the ponies but to try their luck on the slots.
It was on Friday the OLG announced the latest successes of Ontario’s current gaming partnership with a $1.6 million payment to the City of Hamilton. The second fiscal quarter from July through September proved to be highly lucrative for the Flamboro Downs racetrack where the money was paid from. Since the establishment of the slots at racetrack program the racetrack which is partly owned by the community surrounding Hamilton has served as host for many of the OLG’s slot machines.
Ted McMeekin MPP for the riding where the Flamboro Downs track is situated has said the modernization of the OLG gaming structure will benefit the province by providing over 6,000 new jobs and additional funding for important public services such as education and health care.
“OLG gaming sites continue to provide substantial benefits to host communities and Ontario families.”
But what McMeekin and others in government aren’t addressing as strongly is the loss of business to racetracks like Flamboro Downs that will result from the OLG’s new strategy. By driving more gamers into the core cities, racetracks will lose out on many of their customers as studies have shown many visitors to the track go strictly for the slots. If those slots are now in a casino in a downtown core, that is a huge loss for an industry already struggling to get by.
The $1.6 million payment to Hamilton is proof the current strategy still provides lucrative income for cities on tight budgets. There are already calls for the Ontario government to revisit the OLG plan to find a compromise between establishing casinos in the cities while not forgetting the racetracks in rural communities. If money is still being made on the ponies there is no reason to risk betting on business from the track following the OLG to their new casinos.