Ombudsman Ontario

Ombudsman Ontario

March 19, 2013 10:32 ET

Ombudsman Completes Review of Hundreds of Racetrack Slots Complaints; Will Not Launch Formal Investigation

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 19, 2013) - Ontario Ombudsman André Marin announced today that he will not conduct an investigation into the province's decision to end its Slots at Racetracks program.

The Ombudsman received more than 350 complaints after the province's announcement last March, which stemmed from recommendations in the Drummond Report. Because of the high volume of complaints and the serious concerns raised by complainants, the Ombudsman assigned a team of investigators to conduct an in-depth assessment of the complaints and issues.

Investigators interviewed dozens of horse owners, trainers and many other people whose livelihoods were affected by the decision. They also interviewed senior officials in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and reviewed a large volume of documents relating to the decision.

"We recognize that the government's decision has created an enormous level of uncertainty in the horse racing industry," Mr. Marin says in a letter sent to all complainants. Nevertheless, he says, the government's decision was a matter of "broad public policy" and is "not the type of decision that would normally be subject to scrutiny by the Ombudsman."

The letter notes: "The Ombudsman does not substitute his views for the judgment of elected representatives, who are responsible for setting broad public policy. Under the Ombudsman Act, his investigations focus on government administration."

The Ombudsman's review found the decision was made after the OLG's own strategic business review, which included stakeholder consultation - and it was considered by a committee of the Legislature as part of the 2012 budget bill. Since then, the Ministry continues to deal with issues of transitional funding for racetracks and the OLG has negotiated to retain slots at some after the program ends at the end of this month. Premier Kathleen Wynne announced additional changes March 8.

The Office of the Ombudsman has conducted some 30 systemic investigations since 2005, sparking numerous government reforms, including an overhaul of OLG lottery security and its investigations of "insider" wins.

Mr. Marin's full letter can be found here: http://www.ombudsman.on.ca/Files/sitemedia/Images/Reports/Ractracks-letter-for-web-EN.pdf.

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