The OLG became one of the most politicized organizations in Ontario throughout 2012, and is set to continue its role as a hot-button topic into 2013. Ontario’s three main political parties are at odds over how to proceed with the future of the OLG gaming strategy – in particular, over the shift to urbanized casinos and how that will devastate the horseracing industry. While the NDP and the Conservatives have each had consistent messages, the now leaderless Liberals are divided over their strategy going forward.
The NDP has been very critical of the decision to install casinos in Ontario’s urban communities, criticizing outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty for his failure to consider how this strategy will overwhelm racetracks across the province. NDP MPP Taras Natyshak says the government rushed into its decision without considering all the consequences, and demands that the slots at racetrack program be extended into 2014 “so that the horse-racing industry can continue to operate while the government works directly with the industry to find a real solution to this crisis.”
The Conservatives believe in enhanced privatization of Ontario’s gambling industry, but at the same time have condemned the Liberals for focusing on private casinos. The PCs believe racetracks should be given the first opportunity to buy slot machines operations in order to keep the slots at the tracks, and maintain viable business for the industry.
The Liberals are the most divisive of all parties on this issue. Dalton McGuinty and Finance Minister Dwight Duncan championed the gaming modernization plan alongside the leading figures of the OLG in March, 2012. However, five of the seven Liberal candidates in the running to replace McGuinty as Premier have gone on the record saying they would revisit the OLG plan to accommodate the horseracing industry.
Racing Future, an organization that promotes Ontario’s horseracing industry, invited the Liberal candidates to a forum to discuss their plans for the industry if elected as Premier. Racing Future President Dennis Mills commended the candidates for refusing to tow the old McGuinty line.
“It’s very encouraging that so far five of the seven people who have a chance to lead the Ontario Liberal Party and become Premier starting in January are publicly showing their understanding of how important the horse racing and breeding industry is to the lives of hard-working people in rural Ontario.”
Mills says the damage to the industry has already cost upwards of 55,000 jobs due to a loss of $1.5 billion in revenues that were to be used for wages and salaries.