This week, Manuel DaCosta’s guest on “Here’s the Thing” was a very well-known man, that has been an important part of Toronto’s history, serving in many capacities: Paul Godfrey. He has an impressive curriculum and a lot of accomplishments in different areas. He is a businessman, former politician, and in past years served as the Chairman of Metropolitan Toronto, President of the Toronto Sun, president and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays, and is an Order of Canada and Order of Ontario recipient. Godfrey was also chair of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) from 2010 to 2015. Gambling and gaming is a topic that he has a great deal of experience with, and gave his point of view regarding the situation of it in Ontario, he pointed out the economic importance of the revenues generated by legal games to the province of Ontario, and spoke about the addiction problem and what OLG did to help prevent the problem.
Manuel DaCosta: This week, Milénio Stadium is covering the effects that gambling is having on communities during this pandemic. As a former chairman of OLG you have had experience with the government programs of selling tickets to citizens. Each day there are more and more games, more ticket sales, more internet gambling. Do you think that’s positive for the population, to keep giving them hope that somehow, they can get lucky and hit the jackpot or is that a detrimental thing, that society has accepted even though most people that gamble and buy tickets can’t really afford it? What do you think is the biggest problem as far as gambling and gaming?
Paul Godfrey: I really know a lot about gaming. I remember when I was a young boy my mother would buy an Irish Sweepstakes ticket and she would save up for pennies and bought a ticket for five dollars but never won. So, there is a danger where people get caught up in the gambling cycle and lose more that they can afford to lose, however having said that, the internet again played a lot of roles. If there was no gaming at all, in Ontario for instance, people could still gamble if they want to gamble, all they have to do is go online and bet on, whether is black jack, that takes place in a casino or bet on the Toronto Maple Leafs winning the Stanley Cup—that’s all illegal. What happens is that government gets no amount of money for that, so, I can tell you right now that your tax bill as an Ontarian would be dramatically higher if there was no Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. When I was the chairman of OLG, from 2010 to 2015, the revenues from the OLG to Ontario for, not only the lotteries, that people bought tickets, but the various gaming that they had throughout Ontario, was 7 billion dollars and that was some years ago. The fact is that the government made a lot of money from that. Some people probably played too much, but part of the OLG’s mandate was to discourage people and prevent people at times for being able to enter the Casino. If they asked to be barred, there was a system by video photographing to keep them out.
At the same time, it created a lot of jobs. To show you how much, they collected seven billion dollars each year from 2013 to 2015 I believe. Major League baseball has 30 teams, with revenue coming in from advertising in their stadiums, ticket sales, they generated slightly less than seven billion, for 30 teams. The leagues were always against betting on sports. I remember Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, wrote letters to all the sports league saying he doesn’t want any betting, but something happened about two or three years ago, when the Commissioner of the NBA said he would be in favor of betting on games with the right guidelines in place—the teams and the league would get some, the government would get some. That’s what you’re seeing now, gambling is becoming more open again. Why? Because if it doesn’t, it’s going to go underground. People have betting on sports games through bookies for many, many years. I think it’s now being recognized, that’s why there’s going to be a lot of activity in sports betting, especially in the next few years. The Government of Canada has got a Bill in front of the Senate which has to be approved, and likely it will be approved, for sports betting with regulations make sure that organized crime doesn’t come in. I’ve just been appointed to the board of Bragg Gaming which is going to involved with sports betting and Internet gaming, again I’m sure governments are going to take a piece of that, as they probably should.
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Transcrition: Lizandra Ongaratto/MS