North America Under Seige

Good Morning, Ottawa-Carleton,

It is sad to say but Ottawa-Carleton is positioned to become the biggest racetrack casino in the province of Ontario and nobody is noticing.

Is that what YOU would wish for your area?

The democratic process is being by-passed throughout the province and YOU are not making your voice heard.

Please read on to bring you up to date on what is happening in your region and indeed in the whole province, and then get in touch with OCAGE or better still, get in touch with:

The Coalition Against Gambling Expansion (CAGE) – Ottawa-Carleton c/o Sandi Fraser, e-mail: alex.marie@sympatico.ca tel: 613-824-6206

Kind regards,

For OCAGE,
Marie Lucie Spoke

ONTARIO COALITION AGAINST GAMBLING EXPANSION

WHY GAMBLING EXPANSION IS A VERY REAL THREAT TO OTTAWA-CARLETON

January 1999

1. In June 1998, the provincial government said that it had listened to Ontarians and on the basis of the opposition across the province to charity casinos, they were canceling 40 of the 44 planned charity casinos, keeping only 4 “pilot projects”. However these so-called pilots have now become commercial casinos with 3 times the number of slot machines originally stated, no ceiling on that number, no local dismantling process and no guarantees of where the dollars go over the long term.

2. Mayor Cain of Gloucester, who is voraciously awaiting gambling operators and their money, pretended to be devastated. What she and the provincial government did not reveal to the public is that the day before that announcement, on June 25, 1998, the provincial government signed a confidential “business agreement” with the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA) which will allow slot machines to be put into race tracks, of which there are 18 across Ontario. The provincial government has refused so far to release this agreement to the public, arguing that it is a private business agreement regardless of the overwhelming vote in 50 out of 52 municipalities against gambling expansion.

3. The City of Toronto rejected that agreement as they had rejected gambling expansion by referendum the previous year, and the Ontario Jockey Club sued the City. An Ontario Court found in favour of the City of Toronto and ruled that casinos are not ancillary to race tracks and therefore the City’s race track is not zoned to host a casino.

4. Following that decision, Hon. Chris Hodgson, the minister responsible for gambling in Ontario, undertook by confidential correspondence, to get the signature of all mayors of racetrack communities, including that of Mayor Cain of Gloucester, to agree to a gambling loses ‘profit-sharing’ formula between the race tracks, the municipalities and the provincial government.

5. Meanwhile, behind closed doors, some councils authorized their mayor to sign a letter requesting Municipal Affairs Minister Al Leach to provide a ‘blanket rezoning’ for racetrack communities. That Order was signed just before Christmas 1998 and effectively overrode the Court judgment and forced 13 municipalities with race tracks to accept slot machines. Furthermore it is the government’s intention to encourage those municipalities to allow casinos at race tracks after the year 2000, regardless of zoning. This creates a domino effect for the other communities. By enforcing this Order, Minister Leach threw out all the results of referenda held in these municipalities, all future council decisions that may have been taken against allowing slot machines and casinos at local race tracks, and all zoning requirements.

6. OCAGE has tracked down the progress of slot machines in Ontario over the years. Our graphs are on our web site (see www.web.net/~rage/ocage99/ocage99.html). They show that in June 1995, at the time of the election of the Mike Harris government, there were 1,852 slot machines in Ontario (all at the Windsor casino). At the end of 1998, there were 8,000 operating slot machines at Niagara, Rama and Windsor casinos. By the end of 1999, there may be as many as 20,000 slot machines at 25 different locations across the province.

7. In summary, these racetrack casinos would go in with:
– no public consultation;
– no local option
– no limit on future slot expansion
– no local dismantling process
– no local referendum
– no prior impact study.