OLG Bonuses to be Paid as Workers and Casinos Struggle

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) is no stranger to controversy, especially that which relates to salaries and bonuses for its executives.

So, when OLG revealed that its executives will be eligible for bonuses this year, just after a pandemic caused revenue to dip by hundreds of millions of dollars, more than a few people took issue. Even Premier Doug Ford expressed his outrage.

Ontario First Quarter 2020-2021

The Ontario government released its 2020-2021 first-quarter financial report last week.

Finance Minister Rod Phillips made no apologies for the numbers, saying, “We chose to do whatever was necessary to protect the people of Ontario from this pandemic and support them as they deal with the unprecedented impact on their lives.”

The report reflected billions of dollars for health care system support as well as many more billions to support people and jobs. All in all, the unexpected expenditures prompted the government to project a full-year deficit of $38.5 billion for the 2020-2021 year.

As for OLG, it suffered greatly. Casinos and gambling halls – nearly every establishment that offered any form of gambling – closed in mid-March due Covid-19 precautionary measures taken by the government and Canadian health officials. Those establishments only began to reopen in June and July, but the process has been relatively slow due to fears of another wave of virus cases.

Income from OLG was expected to be $809 million, but that number was revised to $600 million.

Awaiting OLG 2019-2020 Financials

It may be another month or two before OLG releases its annual report for the 2019-2020 financial year, which closed at the end of March 2020.

While that time period may reflect a positive bottom line, the first quarter of the 2020-2021 will reflect the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite that massive expected loss in revenue, though, OLG executives will be eligible for their bonuses.

Laid-Off Employees Not Amused

CBC reported that approximately 450 executives will receive their 2019-2020 bonuses.

Employees laid off from casinos and similar businesses did receive payments from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) system through Service Canada, as well as employment insurance. But those do not equate to missing salaries and provide no assurance that employees will be able to return to their jobs.

Unifor President Jerry Dias told CBC that approximately 15,000 casino workers remain unemployed at this time, many of whom will remain in that position for the foreseeable future. Dias was not pleased to hear of the bonuses. “It sends a horrible message, frankly,” he said. “It’s completely irresponsible.”

Premier Ford Not Amused

Ontario Premier Doug Ford spoke publicly about the OLG bonuses.

He started by saying that OLG executives should have gathered and talked about the subject of bonuses during a pandemic before moving forward with it.

Ford acknowledged that the bonuses pertain to work done in the 2019-2020 year, but he only found out about it shortly before being asked to respond. He plans to look into it further.

“People are struggling out there,” Ford said. “When I was down at Windsor yesterday, the first question I was getting was about casinos. There are a couple thousand people that are struggling, can’t put food on the table, and they sit back with the television, radio, and the news and listen to these big-wigs – the fat cats, I call them – all making a fortune, seven-hundred-and-some-odd-thousand, and by the way, ‘We’re gonna get a bonus.’ Guys, think before you start giving out all these bonuses!”

He continued, “For all these big, smart guys, they aren’t too friggin’ smart.”

Ford indicated that Finance Minister Phillips is aware of the situation and will deal with it. Even so, Ford admitted that OLG is a separate agency, so this will limit the level and breadth of influence the government may be able to exert.

Still, Ford noted in typical Ford fashion, “I’m gonna be onto ‘em like a dog on a bone now. It’s not fair to the 15,000 people out there.”

OLG Attempts to Defend

An OLG spokesperson provided a statement to CBC Toronto to say that the bonuses are under review. The defense of the move was undeniable, though.

“Last year, OLG generated $2.3 billion for the Province to help fund important priorities such as health care and education,” indicating that the bonuses are related to performances in 2019-2020.

CBC noted that OLG paid 446 employees each more than $100,000 in 2019. CEO Stephen Rigby was at the top of the list with a salary of $762,458, followed by COO Gregory Mckenzie with $673,132.

Not the First Time

Those OLG salaries have been a problem for quite some time. At the end of 2019, the Toronto Sun brought salaries and expenses to light for public scrutiny.

Notably, OLG reimbursed Rigby for numerous expenses, which were over and above his high-end six-figure salary. OLG paid $3,200 plus shipping to rent three pieces of art, as well as flights during Rigby’s 2015 move from Toronto to Ottawa that totaled $20,000. Accommodations for nine months during that move came to $56,676, too.

At that time Ford promised that an auditing team would scour OLG’s financials. “There’s one thing I won’t tolerate,” he said at the time, “is people wasting taxpayers’ money.”


Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. From her days in the WPT offices to covering summers of WSOP tournament action, she also followed gambling legislation to Washington D.C. and women-only poker to the Bahamas. Meanwhile, she lived in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for many years before moving back to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Now, Jen travels less, writing about poker and online gambling from her home with her two dogs watching her every move. In her spare time, she follows politics, works on her never-finished novels, and learns Italian in the hopes of retiring to Italy someday.

If you want to know more, you can follow Jen on Twitter @WriterJen


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