Border casinos no longer hit jackpot

Revenue from Ontario's border casinos has plummeted since their inception in 2001.

Revenue has fallen from $800 million to $100 million in 10 years

Revenue from Ontario's border casinos has plummeted since their inception in 2001.

The Ontario government said Monday that the profit from OLG’s border facilities has dropped from $800 million in 2001 to approximately $100 million in 2011.

"Our casinos were built in a border cities when crossings were high and U.S. border cities had no gaming," OLG chairman Paul Godfrey said Monday in Toronto. "Building those casinos at that time was a stroke of genius by the government and the decision makers of the day. It resulted in huge profits amid little competition. It was truly a golden era."

Times have changed. Competition has sprung up along the U.S. side of the border. Detroit alone boasts three casinos and more will soon open in Ohio.

The Canadian dollar has risen, border lines are longer and it’s more difficult to cross because of stricter security on both sides of the border.

"These factors contributed to a significant decline in U.S. traffic to our border sites," Godfrey said. 

While there are no plans to close casinos in border towns like Niagara and Windsor, Godfrey acknowleged a GTA casino could draw gamblers — and the money they spend — away from other OLG facilities.

"Yes, there will be some erosion," Godfrey said. "Will it cause their demise? I don't believe that."

Harness racing also in government's crosshairs

In another potential blow to the Windsor-Essex economy, the government announced it will stop annual payments to the horse racing industry by ending the slots-at-racetracks program on March 31, 2013. Instead, slot facilities will be located more strategically.

"If it actually does happen it’s the absolute end and devastation of harness racing in Ontario," said Mark Williams, whose family has been in the horse industry for five generations.

Williams owns a stable in Essex County and is the area director for the Ontario Harness Horse Association.

"This is absolutely an unacceptable thing," he said.

Williams said 65,000 people are directly or indirectly employed by the horse racing industry.

Windsor Raceway officials declined to comment.

With files from the Canadian Press