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New gov't PlayOLG website won't cannibalize Caesars - officials

But industry officials, including the union that represents casino workers, doesn’t think that’s the case.

Ryan Bissonnette, spokesman for Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) Corporation, said the main purpose of the site is to repatriate gamblers who are already playing on “gray” sites that exist in other countries.

“Ontarians spend about $400 to $500 million a year on these sites,” he said.

So the Ontario government decided to try to corral some of these gamblers by directing them to a home grown site that, among other things, is “regulated,” and protects peoples’ privacy and credit card information.

Moreover the money gamblers spend doesn’t “go offshore” but “we are able to invest these profits back into Ontario,” he said, with revenue going to such purposes as health care and education.

Bissonnette said the site also tries to set “parameters” for gamblers, encouraging them to gamble responsibly.

“And what we do when you set your deposit limit, you have drop down options, and they’re all moderate,” he said.

“And that keeps people’s weekly deposits - our average has been hovering around the $80 mark so $80 a week.”

There are tools that allow players to set money and time limits and get “direct feedback that give you more insight” into playing activity, the site itself says.

Pat Burns, spokesman for the Canadian Gaming Association, an organization representing Canada’s wide ranging gaming industry - from provincial lottery corporations to hi-tech firms that design gaming websites - said he didn’t “see any need to worry about cannibalization” for similar reasons that Bissonnette gave.

In fact he said it is likely to create more activities at casinos.

“Poker rooms were almost dead a decade ago and being removed, now they’re obviously a part of the casino floor,” he said.

Burns said his association didn’t lobby for establishment of PlayOLG.

What it does do is generally “offer advice and information (and) provide a conduit to the industry for governments.”

(Caesars Windsor President and CEO Kevin Laforet is the association’s chair.)

Last month there was a layoff at Caesars Windsor.

Twenty-six full time and two part time staff were let go.

But Caesars spokeswoman Jhoan Baluyot said the layoff was not at all associated with the new PlayOLG website.

“The staff adjustments, announced in January, were due to efficiencies found in those areas and have absolutely no correlation with PlayOLG whatsoever,” she said.

Baluyot said Caesars “will not speculate on the potential impact of PlayOLG at this early stage.”

Dino Chiodo, president of Unifor Local 444, which represents Caesars Windsor employees, is not particularly concerned about the impact of the new online site.

“That attracts a certain type of individual, so I think it’s just another revenue stream for the OLG,” he said.

“But I still believe that patrons, people, will continue to want to have that interaction with other live people, serving them, providing them an experience that is really second to none, especially right there in Caesars Windsor.”

Chiodo doubted PlayOLG would negatively impact the traditional gaming industry at all.

“In essence that was never a real concern with regards to hurting Windsor’s opportunity - and other gaming facilities’ opportunity - to generate funds, I just don’t see it.”

He said the recent layoffs were no different from others that have taken place form time to time at the casino.

“I mean every year we have layoffs around this time … usually right after the Christmas holidays,” he said.

“It’s not complicated because people are trying to pay off debt, bills, and generally it’s a little bit of a slower time.”

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