“I have followed the happenings of the OLG over the past few years and I understand that they have somewhat fallen out of favour in the eyes of the general public, which I thought was a little unfair. I do believe that the vast majority of the staff there are honest, hard working, decent people and I thought with strong leadership from the board of directors that they should be able to restore an image that they rightfully should have,” Godfrey said.
“The tarnishing of the image didn’t take place overnight and the restoration of it won’t take place overnight either. I do believe that in the seven or so months that I have been there, that my colleagues on the board and I have sort of pointed it in the direction which someday, hopefully in the near future, that people will applaud the great work of the OLG, and the government will recognize that it has a very valuable asset that’s being well run for the benefit of the taxpayers of the province of Ontario.”
But it will be quite a task for Godfrey and the board to tackle, nonetheless. The Ontario agency has been plagued by scandal over the past few years which included accusations of questionable spending practices. The scandal led to the downfall of OLG chief executive officer Kelly McDougald and the rest of the board. A permanent CEO is a few months away from being named.
It also faced concerns over insiders winning big lottery payouts and the sting of foreign-made cars being awarded as prizes while the domestic automakers were teetering on bankruptcy.
“These are all things which sort of deflated the image of the OLG,” he said. “I can’t unring the bell, but what I can do is set the OLG in a new direction, which hopefully will ensure that those types of mistakes are not made in the future.”
With his experience as chairman of Metropolitan Toronto, the president of the Toronto Blue Jays and head of the Canwest newspaper chain, Godfrey certainly knows the virtues of spin doctoring and the benefits of a good public relations campaign. These, he concedes, are needed more than anything else to right the ship at the OLG.
“I think that we have got to put a good management structure in place, which we are working on. We have to put a new CEO in there that is given the tools to do the job and also to really enunciate in a very clear way all the positive things the OLG does in this province,” he said.
“It’s important that the chairman of the board and the board members help restore the image of the OLG and to make sure that the public really appreciates the work that they are doing.”
Godfrey said he and his board can help shape the image of the OLG by demonstrating to the sceptical public all that it has and can do for the province. He points to the number of charitable organizations which it helps and the billions of dollars that it puts back into Ontario’s coffers each year.
“I’m not sure how many taxpayers would prefer to anti-up their share of roughly $2 billion more each and every year to carryout the services that the province of Ontario gives the people of Ontario.”
Biggest challenge ahead
But the biggest challenge still lies ahead for Godfrey and the rest of his board members as they get set to launch Internet gaming in the province sometime in 2012.
The corporation plans to launch online gaming sites in a bid to capture some of the estimated $400 million to $500 million that Ontario residents spend annually on off-shore Internet gaming. Currently, Ontarians do not have access to online gambling websites, which are not regulated or licensed to operate in Ontario.
This has been labelled by the public and opposition as a money grab. They further claim it will fuel even more cases of gambling addiction.
But Godfrey argues that the residents will find ways to quench their gambling thirsts nonetheless, so the province might as well benefit from the new craze already in place in countries such as Denmark and Great Britain.
By Scott Anderson