New lotto chief touts Internet gambling

It's time the province took a look at offering Internet gambling…"Money is going out of this province to other provinces as well as offshore sites," he said.

The Toronto Star
February 20, 2010

New lotto chief touts Internet gambling
Rob Ferguson, Queen's Park Bureau

It's time the province took a look at offering Internet gambling as potential revenues slip away to rival provinces, says the new Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation chairman Paul Godfrey.

"When you see what's going on in British Columbia, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces … it's something I would explore," Godfrey told a news conference Friday as he took the helm of OLG, wracked by scandals over expense accounts and insider wins in the last few years.

"Money is going out of this province to other provinces as well as offshore sites," he said.

The comments came as Finance Minister Dwight Duncan appointed the first five members of a new board to run the corporation, including corporate lawyer Dale Lastman, son of Toronto's former mayor Mel Lastman, and business executives with experience in mergers and acquisitions.

That suggests the province is serious about privatizing all or part of the lottery corporation, which puts about $1.9 billion in profits into provincial coffers annually, said New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath.

"If the government's musings around the potential sell-off of the OLG have any merit, this would certainly be the team to have that thing achieved," she told reporters.

"I certainly hope that the damage control isn't going to be just a sell-off of the agency."

Any decisions on privatization are up to the government, Godfrey said, insisting it is "not a front-burner thing."

Progressive Conservative finance critic Norm Miller praised the business experience on the new board – which includes former Onex Corp. executive Anthony Melman, tax expert Thomas O'Brien, accountant William Swirsky and Toronto Land Corporation chief executive Shirley Hoy.

"They will have their work cut out for them after the mess the McGuinty government made at the lottery corporation," he said.

Godfrey, a well-known Conservative, said he can't "un-ring" the damage of past scandals but he intends to "build back the public trust" in the Crown agency, where Internet gaming is one of many options to boost profits for the cash-strapped province facing a record deficit of $24.7 billion this year.

Duncan said it's too early to say whether Internet gaming is in the cards.

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