27 April 2012

Will Bingo Halls Get The Pulled Slot Machines In Ontario

Barring a last minute miracle, April 30th is the last day slot machines will be played at Fort Erie, Sarnia, and Windsor Raceway.

These three locations were selected because of their proximity to non racetrack casinos, as the OLG appears to be either helping the big casinos show a profit and/or they are attempting to prop up the numbers in those casinos for potential sales or to entice operators to get involved at other locations.

The Ontario government and the OLG needs to attract gaming operators to take the risks in building new locations, expanding old locations, and taking the burden of employee expenses and maintenance off their hands.  In other words, the government is kissing the butt of American companies like Caesars and MGM all at the expense of the Ontario horse racing industry, and all the jobs and  the economic impact that the industry creates within Canada, numbers that the government don't seem to know  (Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan's mindless questioning of the industry claim of 60,000 people who are either employed full or depend partially on horse racing) or if they do know, they don't care about it.

Andrea Horwath and her NDP Party voted for the death of the horse racing industry on Tuesday by having her Party not vote against the Liberal budget.  A vague concession of transitional aid for the racing industry was agreed on, but nobody has a clue what that means, except that possibly the best case scenario, it could buy another year before we see the major repercussions of losing close to half of the industry's work force, and the impact on businesses that somewhat depend on the racing industry as well.

The OLG is not going to let those slot machines rot, as each is a potential money maker.  Their destination is unclear, but speculation on this topic has uncovered some interesting ideas, and possible implications that the end of slots at racetracks deal was something that was in the cards for some time.

Bingo halls have been in the news of late.   Earlier this week, the Bingo Hall in Sudbury announced that they will start expanding their gaming in May.   Two days ago a headline read: Mississauga to Participate in Charitable Bingo and Gaming Revitalization Initiative.

Further investigation lead me to an OLG press release from a year ago, explaining the expansion plan:

"The collaboration of OLG, the OCGA and the CGAO heralds plans for an expansion in the number of Gaming Centres offering an array of new electronic games. The new games will allow Gaming Centres to be more competitive and appealing to a broader demographic, while providing a different gaming entertainment experience from traditional casinos or slots at racetracks. This initiative is intended to offer players an interactive environment, a new way to play bingo and charitable social games and enhanced customer service."

Another interesting thing...I'll report, you decide....one of the major players in the Charity Bingo Industry is Boardwalk Gaming and Entertainment, a private investment holding company controlled by Larry Tanenbaum (The Kilmer Group).  

Tanenbaum is best known as the Chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, but his ties to the Liberal Party and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty are undeniable, and his other ties with the city of Toronto makes him a potential huge benefactor as a possible casino operator in Toronto:

"Larry Tanenbaum served as National Revenue Chair of the Liberal Party of Canada during Prime Minister Paul Martin’s term of office. He currently serves as a member of the Ontario Investment and Trade Advisory Council, and recently served on the Independent Fiscal Review Panel of the City of Toronto and the Mayor’s Economic Competitiveness Advisory Committee of the City of Toronto. He is a member of the Advisory Council, Toronto Board of Trade and is an Honourary Co-Chair of the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance."

The Charitable Gaming initiative apparently goes back 5 years, started at one of Boardwalk's Bingo Halls, but it started to gain legs around a year ago.

The OLG and Ontario Liberal government seem to be one and the same with their "there is the door" approach to Municipalities when it comes to trying to convincing them to expand gaming.  "If you don't want gaming, there are plenty who do."  Mississauga recently heard that pitch, which also included the threat of closing the Bingo Hall in the near future due to declining numbers.

And then you have Oakville, a town that apparently wants Charity Bingo, but doesn't want slots machines and VLTs.  The thing is that OLG won't agree to expand Bingo there without allowing for the possibility of bringing in machines the town is against.  Again, threats that the Bingo Hall will possibly shut down without the agreement are being used to convince Oakville Town Council.

Seems to me like the government and OLG and Ontario government is using a Mafia How To Handbook in order to get this Modernization of Gaming Plan of their to work.

Also, doesn't it seem odd that the government and OLG is going out of their way to help declining Bingo businesses, and casinos that are losing their operators money, while ending a business partnership with racetracks that was beyond successful?

For a real eye opening read, check out Item 3 in the Mississauga Corporate Report for April.   There is a discussion of the real decline in Bingo, and the Gaming Revitalization Initiative.  I found it interesting that according to projections the Bingo Hall, the government and the Charities will all wind up making more money.   Wait a sec, does that meant the government is subsidizing Bingo Halls?  Anyway, the responses by the OLG on page 44 shows they are playing hardball on many issues, and at the same time, not guaranteeing the Bingo Hall will in fact not lose money.

It does appear from looking at the projections that the OLG will net a higher percentage of revenues from Bingo Halls than they do currently from the racetracks, with less risk as well.  And assuming they can capture the same amount of degenerate slot players to play in the Bingo Halls instead of racetracks, they will come out way ahead.  But to me, that is a huge unnecessary risk the OLG and Government is taking on.

Mississauga accepted the deal with the Devil.   It probably opens the door for a full scale casino there if Toronto says no to one.  The big question is will both Toronto and Mississauga need a referendum to build a new casino.  We might have a good idea about that when a Private Members Bill is vote on May 3rd.  The PCs are definitely on board with making referendums mandatory.  This gives Andrea Horwath a chance to redeem herself as well, she stated publicly that municipalities should have referendums before a new casino is built.

If I am right and slot machines and VLTs are on their way to Bingo Halls, it will not bode well for racetracks who will be in search of a new deal next April.  More competition will not create many new addicts, but it will attract some of the addicts to sites outside of racetracks, which means less revenues no matter what the new deal looks like.

The OLG should have just stuck with privatizing gambling at racetracks, giving the racing industry the ability to partner and make around the same as before while expanding gaming on the racetrack grounds, grounds that are completely acceptable to majority of people in Ontario.  Instead the inept Dalton McGuinty and his Minster of Propaganda Dwight Duncan are hell bent on destroying jobs, families and a thriving industry.  What is motivating them to take this unnecessary risk?   It is either political favours or a vendetta against perhaps the now marginalized OHHA, or most likely both.

1 comment:

Sherri Sumner said...

What another Liberal scandal? How shocking! You can bet McGuinty and Duncan are having their pockets lined. They make me sick!