PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE PARTY OF ONTARIO
************************* Problem gambling report shows troubled agency still rolling the dice with taxpayers' money Tory calls for changes to OLG to increase transparency, improve efforts to combat problem gambling
TORONTO, Aug. 6 - Progressive Conservative Party Leader John Tory today renewed his call for action to clean up the unaccountable and wasteful culture at Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) in the wake of a report of further problems at the troubled corporation.
"Once again we learn about a secretive OLG more concerned about itself than the people who own it, some of whom are ultimately hurt by its practices," said Tory. "As we saw with the ticket scandal (where we have scant detail as to what has actually been done to clean up that mess which cost the ticket-buying public up to $100 million) OLG's first instinct is to cover up." A Toronto Star article revealed this weekend that several million-dollar plus lawsuits against the OLG have been secretly settled out of court.
The OLG refuses to disclose the cost of the settlements and it appears they were settled out of court to prevent further scrutiny of OLG's inadequate efforts to combat problem gambling. "This is a crown corporation and public money is involved, so details of these settlements should be made public immediately. There can be no excuse for keeping this information from the public since it could involve millions of their dollars," said Tory. "The McGuinty Liberals have repeatedly promised greater transparency. Instead, just like the lottery ticket scandal, we're seeing more secret settlements, and an effort to cover things up instead of fixing them up." Tory also said that beyond the court cases, the OLG has again placed its own self interest ahead of strong, effective policies to deter compulsive and problem gamblers. "The habits and addictions of these gamblers is taking a huge toll on these people themselves, their families, their employers and others and yet the OLG continues to place profit before people," said Tory. "If they were serious about combatting problem gambling and ending their own disgraceful dependence on money coming from people with serious gambling problems they would move immediately to consider the following measures in place elsewhere."
- In the Netherlands, gamblers have to use a card to sign in each time they visit a casino. If they visit more than nine times a month, they're called in for an interview in a process that identifies problem gamblers. In Ontario, many frequent gamblers also use a card each time they visit and casinos could take similar measures as they do in the Netherlands.
- In British Columbia, facial recognition cameras which Ontario has in its casinos to spot cheaters are also used to spot problem gamblers who have self-identified.
- Ontario casinos should be taking some responsibility for their own self-exclusion forms. They should make it easier for people to sign them without having to go to a place of gambling and should no longer try to wash their hands of the problem once the form has been signed. At present, virtually the entire onus is placed on the gambler as opposed to the casinos.
What use is the self-exclusion form if problem gamblers fill them out, and then OLG maintains they have no responsibility to do anything as a result?
- Ontario should look at a greater degree of independence for its problem gambling oversight organization so that a suitable distance is maintained between those who benefit from gambling and those who determine how best to deal with problem gamblers. "Families are being torn apart, jobs are being lost, sometimes even lives are being lost," said Tory. "For the sake of a really small amount of lost business from problem gamblers, Ontario could be a leader in addressing this problem, not a secretive excuse-maker settling any and every claim so as to continue to avoid taking responsibility. The McGuinty Liberals should be ashamed of this latest scandal and cover up at OLG, should bring these practices to an end immediately and bring in some strong, effective and sensitive policies which actually help problem gamblers and their families."