Letter to the Editor: Decision to close Slots doesn’t measure up

Premier McGuinty, Please Help,

My name is Rick Charlebois and I have lived in Ontario for most of my life.  My family moved to Sarnia a few months ago.  I believe that we live in a great country, province and city.  I served 30 years in the Canadian military and travelling to many other countries solidified my belief that we do live in the best country in the world.

One of the main reasons that we are the best country in the world is our exemplary political system which operates well, regardless of which political party is in power.  I would also like to mention that I have never written a letter to my government before.  I do not think that I ever saw a need as I felt that the government was doing a good job.  BUT now I do see a need.

I would like to ask for your personal involvement in the decision to close the OLG slot machines at our local race track. I am new to this great part of our province and I do not have any connection to this activity other than being a new local resident.

It was just announced that the OLG slots would close in April this year.  I assume that some smart, lofty MBA (I have my MBA) has conducted some financial analysis for the OLG and recommended that closing the OLG slots at our local race track will generate a greater profit for OLG and hence, generate more funds for the Province.

I assume that their well meaning accountants (I am an accountant as well) have confirmed the figures in this analysis.  One of the positions that I held while serving in the Canadian Forces was the Director of Costing Services for the whole Department of National Defence.

My team and I reviewed many business case proposals worth tens and hundreds of millions of dollars, and a few billion dollar proposals. One of the common flaws with many of the draft business cases we reviewed was that the business case did not take a broad enough view to determine the full financial implications of the proposal.

For example, a business case about a particular military base would only consider the cost implications on that base and not the financial impact on the whole department or more importantly, the whole federal government.  (As an aside, my team wrote a costing guide for business case preparation that was recognized with an international award).

I suggest that the OLG just looked at its revenues and costs, and not that of the whole province.  For example, they are likely assuming that closing the slots at the local race track will increase the revenues for the local casino with only a small increase in their costs at the local casino as race track slot machine patrons would take their money to the casino once the race track is closed.

I suggest that this is too narrow a view and actually results in a sub-optimal decision for our great province.  Another key factor is that I know you understand that a growing economy is much better than a shrinking one for many social and economic reasons.

I have heard that potentially 100 Ontarians would lose their job by closing the slots at our race track which will decrease revenues for the Ontario government, (actually, provincial costs will increase to support and transition these jobless citizens).

There are also many other secondary impacts, such as, will the local race track be able to financially sustain itself during the non-live race season which is most of the year?   There is a nice restaurant that is open year round at the race track, without the attraction of the slot machines, will the track be able to keep the restaurant open?  This could lead to more job losses. By reducing the activity at the race track, there will be a negative economic multiplier effect on the local economy as well.  Sarnia has recently received other disappointing economic news, such as a local call centre (NCO) will be closing soon and the area will be losing about 400 jobs.

And we must never forget the tremendous impact that each and every job loss has on that person, their family and the other secondary affects.  In addition, there is a clustering effect of entertainment activities that attracts a larger group of tourists.  The classic example of this is Las Vegas which has many casinos and slot machine sites.

My bottomline is: as a taxpayer, I believe that the Ontario government must manage all of its finances in an efficient and effective manner, especially given our Provinces current financial situation.

However, I truly believe that closing the slot machines at our local race track is not the right financial decision for our Province based purely on the numbers (but it likely is from the narrow OLG point of view), and I plead that you have this decision reviewed.

I would be pleased to donate my time and expertise to help with the review.  I am willing to travel to anywhere in Ontario at my expense to help our Province make an informed decision.

I know that Windsor is going through some tough economic times and they are likely in the same situation as Sarnia.  I have copied a few others that may be interested in my comments.  Thank you for your time and have a great day.

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