Sports books on hold

January 17, 2001 3:11 AM
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Canadian gamblers were ecstatic a few months ago when Ron D. Barbaro, Chairman and CEO of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, announced that sports betting in the form of sports books was a possibility.

Barbaro, who has led a governmental charge into the gambling realm by way of commercial casinos, charity casinos and racetrack slot casinos, seemed fairly confident when he told GamingToday that sports books were in the OLGC’s plans. He predicted that a pilot program would soon be tested at a selected racetrack.

Today, it wouldn’t be fair to say that sports betting is a dead issue, but it might be said that it is in limbo ”” a limbo imposed by a governmental moratorium on new gambling.

The moratorium was imposed to give government agencies a chance to catch their breath after four hectic and successful years of venturing into the gaming business.

Politicians have to step back every now and then and assess things ... purge their mistakes ... and expound on their successes. Let’s face it, Ontario had opened three commercial casinos, four charity casinos, and 11 slot casinos at racetracks ”” all getting rave revues from local governments for their employment, contributions to charity, new construction and boost to tourism.

The positives have far outnumbered negatives in the government’s gaming initiative, even though many politicians walk a thin line on the gaming subject. The unofficial word is that sports books are still being considered, but no decision has been made.

And, in the next few months, Barbaro’s traveling road show will open racetrack slot casinos in Hanover, Dresden and Woodstock. These openings were already in the works before the moratorium was imposed. So was the building of a new, $800 million Hyatt Hotel/casino/entertainment complex in Niagara Falls. Construction is expected to start in the spring.