Ontario mayors defy OLG request to end slots

The mayors of Windsor and Sarnia refuse to sign paperwork that would officially bring an end to slot machine revenues given by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming to the respective cities on an annual basis.
Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis calls the OLG's proposal unacceptable. (CBC News)

The mayors of Windsor and Sarnia refuse to sign paperwork that would officially bring an end to slot machine revenues given by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming to the respective cities on an annual basis.

The province will remove slot machines from tracks in Windsor, Sarnia and Fort Erie at the end of April. Next year, the cities will stop receiving millions of dollars from OLG because the municipalities will no longer house slots at racetracks.

Mayor Eddie Francis said there are a number of reasons why the mayors refuse to sign the paperwork, which would finalize the province's decision to pull the slots and funding.

"Primarily, when the OLG made the initial decision, they had committed to us — as well as other cities — that they would sit down and have meaningful and productive discussions with us to talk about transition. The fact that we've received this letter, asking us to sign off and [saying] things will be fine is unacceptable to us," Francis said.

While the slots are to be removed from Windsor Raceway at the end of the month, OLG pledged to give the city $1.5 million over the next year. The final payment will be made in March 2013. OLG made the same promise to Sarnia and Fort Erie.

Francis has a conference call with the CEO of OLG scheduled for Thursday.

Staff involved, too

The city's chief administrative officer, Helga Reidel, and her fellow CAOs in the other two cities, are investigating what action can be taken. Reidel said one course of action is a meeting with the government.

"We hope we get some attention from the provincial officials, Reidel said. "Ultimately, the goal is to get information in front of the provincial decision makers."

Slot revenues are partially used to assist marginalized people in the city. The money is also used for capital projects.

Drouillard Place, a local social service agency, gets a portion of the money. Marina Clemens said the organization's food bank and programs for teens and children are vital.

"We love those programs and, obviously, if that money is gone and we're not able to have those programs, it provides a huge gap within our neighbourhood," Clemens said.