Tuesday, February 26, 2013

OLG's Gambling Expansion Looked At

SC ran a link to a story on Sun News about the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp's gaming expansion plan today.  In the piece the outline of the Liberal Party's plan was noted:

- Create 29 gaming zones bundled for private operators to bid and build a casino in each zone. Some zones, such as London and the Waterloo Region, call for both slots and table games. OLG would oversee and regulate the industry
- Move some facilities to more densely populated areas
- Have private operator build new casino resort in the GTA, preferably downtown Toronto
- Launch online gaming site — playolg.ca — in the fall, allowing Ontarians to play the lottery or gamble online
- Cut the horse-racing industry’s $345 million take from slot revenue at racetracks as of March 31. Horse racing would continue at some of the 14 tracks but others would close

This plan is in response to the massive deficit and revenue shortfall the government has created. They are forced to look for more revenue to bridge that gap, and gambling is an area they think can help.

As dispassionate as I can be, being a horse racing guy,  there is some sound logic in the plan:

Creating 29 gaming zones expands gambling, and moving gambling to densely populated areas is textbook. Using economic geography is not new. Burger King, Wendy's, Wal Mart and thousands of franchises do it each day. I have no question that gambling will be expanded with a location and population based plan.

Build a Toronto Casino. Again, of course this will make money.

Now we get silly, in my opinion.

Launch an online gambling site called "Playolg.ca". First, whomever thought up that name is about as creative as I am. Second, an online gambling site where someone can play roulette or slots (you know that will probably happen) is, again, in my opinion, certifiable.

Betting racing online is a passion and a skill game. With some work and skill, you can make a bit of a go of it. The deck is stacked against you with high rake, but it is possible to win. It's gambletainment, as my friend Eric would say.

Playing online poker is too a skill. With low takeout and some passion, you can play online and make a go of it. With a $200 deposit, playing on low 25 cent, 50 cent tables, you can play for months and have some fun. It's gambletainment too.

Betting racing online and playing poker online is not much different than buying stocks and options online. It can be regulated, an enjoyable experience and it is not always a losing proposition.

Slots and roulette online is not gambletainment, it is taking $10 and lighting it on fire from the comfort of your living room. It, in my opinion, does a disservice to everyone in the Province. It can ruin lives and cause tremendous hardship and not to mention we know who will play these games more than others- low income folks.

I'm pretty live and let live; nanny state policies rarely sit well with me. But this is something that even a hardened libertarian would have some issue with.

What doesn't sit well with some is that Ontario is a province, which led by the Liberals, has a lot of nanny state in it. It's a place where you and I line up like cattle to buy a bottle of wine, at a heavily regulated, union shop, at ridiculously high prices, called an LCBO. Christmas time buying beer, well you might as well bring a book to pass the time standing in line at the Beer Store.

When beer in corner stores was broached (for about the 50th time, because consumers want it) a spokesman for Ontario Finance Minster Dwight Duncan said this:

"The current system balances access for both customers and suppliers with social responsibility.... we believe the current system of selling liquor is an effective way to guard the public interest.”

So, the same people who want to "guard the public interest" by not allowing someone to buy a six pack of light beer at a corner store, are now promoting gambling on a slot machine as long as you have an internet hook up and a mouse?

There already is a place to play slots that is regulated, disparate and seems to do a good job protecting the "public interest". It's called a racetrack.

If it walks like a duck and quack's like a duck, it's a duck. This is a very poor policy. And I'd have that opinion whether I have a bias towards horse racing or not.

Have a nice Tuesday everyone.