The OLG Racket

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (aka OLG) has a cute, Hallmarkesque TV ad on now, showing lots of happy people who’ve apparently just won millions gambling. Then the ad shows a bunch of other happy people who’ve apparently been able to have some life-saving surgery or something thanks to Ontario’s lottery and gaming profits.

The message is: Gamble – you’ll get rich AND fund a lot of vital social programs.

The OLG realizes approximately $6 billion in annual revenues. I’m pretty sure they don’t make this kind of money on people like me who occasionally buy a 649 ticket. No, the big money comes from problem gamblers who re-mortgage their homes, cash in their RRSPs and gamble away their kids’ education funds.

It almost looks as if our provincial government is actively encouraging its citizens to become serious, if not problem, gamblers. But that can’t be right, can it?

An estimated 332,000 people in this province have a moderate to severe gambling problem. (Out of a population of 12 million). That’s a pretty serious issue and/or a great PR effort on behalf of OLG. Problem gambling in Ontario has increased dramatically with the increase of access to gambling.

Government locates casinos in desperate communities with promises of how good they’ll be for the community — bringing jobs and tourist dollars, glamour and culture to the area. Of the revenues generated, however, something like 90% come directly from the people in the community where the casino is located, not magical tourists.

Overall, I think casinos end up costing a community more than they provide in benefits. The costs include increased law enforcement, government regulatory costs, suicide, illness, social service costs and gambling costs, all factors that stem from gambling addiction. Gambling addiction is associated with unemployment, financial problems. It’s connected to spousal and child abuse.

But, says OLG, gaming revenue funds vital social programs. So, gambling revenue is really a form of tax that’s coerced from certain targeted groups of people?

Seems to me, originally, lotteries were run to match funds for special projects (remember Wintario?). Now, it seems the province is as addicted to gambling as their victims.

OLG claims that over the last 30 years, they have generated “more than $23 billion for physical fitness, sport and recreation programs, cultural activities, and the operation of hospitals”.

And where does the rest of the money go? Just under $1 billion per year for social funding, $248 million is spent annually on marketing and promotion and I guess the rest is administration or something. It’s definitely not disbursed in winnings.

I don’t know. I’m kind of creeped out by the whole notion of our government preying on its weak and vulnerable citizens and pushing then into an addiction in order to turn a quick and easy profit. When organized crime does this it’s called racketeering.

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6 responses to “The OLG Racket

  1. When organized crime does this it’s called racketeering.

    Yah but the government has the best interests of the comminity at heart! You know that! We all know that! That’s why it’s not called raketeering.

    I’m not a gambler myself, I find it boring, but (playing devil’s advocate here) 332,000 is about 3% of the population. I know it’s a horrible problem, but do you get rid of the gambling industry for that rather small percentage who will find a way to gamble notwithstanding? Most gamblers don’t have a problem with it.

    And if you do that, what about alcohol? Cigarettes? Completely legal addictions, both of them.

    I have no answers, just throwing it out there.

    OK, more than 3% of gamblers, since it’s 3% of the overall population…

  2. To me there is a distinction between alcohol/cigarettes and gambling – subtle perhaps. Alcohol & cigarettes are products. You go, see the price of the product, pay for it, consume. Gambling is a scam. OLG is selling a possibility, that isn’t a possiblity. And it is targeting our most vulnerable citizens. People who are led to believe that gambling is a solution to their financial problems; who believe that the more the gamble, the better their chances of winning, who are led to believe that if you just keep gambling you will win back what you’ve lost.

    Also the 332,000 people are the ones with the actual problems. You can multiply that number several times when you take into account the relatives, friends, business partners, etc. who are directly affected by their problem. And you also have to take into account how much gambling is costing all of us. If the government needs more money to operate they should just tax us all fairly and/or stop promising services they can’t deliver.

  3. I don’t think ‘taxing us all fairly’ is even possible, let alone going to happen.
    …and “organized crime”?
    first of all organized, according to Merriam-Webster is “having a formal organization to coordinate and carry out activities”
    (doesn’t GOVERNMENT fit this description?)
    And crime is both “a grave offense especially against morality” and “something reprehensible, foolish, or disgraceful” (again, according to Merriam-Webster)
    This widens the scope of the definition a little beyond the mafia, I believe.

  4. When I was growing up, New York State had similar commercials, except that lottery revenue was earmarked for education.

    Even as a kid the idea of the government trying to make its citizens feel guilty for not gambling creeped me out.

  5. JB- stop reading that damn dictionary, you’ll grow hair on your brain.

    Tantalus – thanks for not quoting the dictionary and for getting the whole “creeped-out” thing.