With Ontario on the brink of a snap provincial election, a damning report from the province’s auditor general will only add fuel to the fire for the opposition. Bonnie Lysyk called the OLG’s gambling modernization plan “a best case scenario” that required all parties to buy in, and laid the blame for the program’s failure at the feet of the government as well as OLG management.
Lysyk condemned the cabinet of former Premier Dalton McGuinty, which included current Premier Kathleen Wynne for moving forward with the modernization plan at the expense of the Ontario horseracing industry. The cancelled slot at racetrack revenue sharing agreement has left racetracks struggling to survive, which is costing the government $500 million to finance the racetracks through a transitional period.
Ontario is in a deficit worth over $11 billion, and the former Liberal government anticipated gambling modernization would add over $1 billion annually to the provincial budget by 2018. The OLG planned to build as many as 12 privatized casinos in cities like Toronto and Ottawa, but city councils ultimately rejected or retooled the initial plans.
Lysyk noted that the government reduced the casino revenue projections down to $600 million after the Toronto casino was rejected, which is believed by the Auditor General to validate the belief that the modernization plan was a failure.
“The government and OLG did not do enough preparation and planning before launching an ambitious, ‘best-case scenario’ modernization plan for Ontario’s gaming industry.”
With the provincial budget debuting tomorrow and a tense Queen’s Park expected to vote against the budget, the Auditor General’s slamming report against the gambling modernization plan is another blow to the government’s credibility as it fights to avoid an election.