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Ontario mulling lottery tax

Apr 29, 2004, 7:34 am

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Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation

Ontario's finance minister is opposed to a scheme to tax lottery and gambling winnings.

"Don't bet the family farm on a lottery tax," said Greg Sorbara.

"This is not something that is getting very much consideration wherever. Frankly, I wasn't very impressed with the results that we might gain from it."

Gambling in Ontario nets the province $2 billion annually. All the winnings are tax-free, unlike in the United States, where some states tax gambling proceeds at rates of up to 18 per cent.

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation paid out $1.13 billion in prizes last year, meaning an 18 per cent tax could have brought in $203 million.

That wouldn't make much of a dent in a provincial deficit that Premier Dalton McGuinty has pegged at $7.8 billion.

This week he received a consultants' report recommending new levies on lottery, casino, bingo and racetrack winnings. The Liberal government commissioned the $200,000 study, in which 250 randomly selected citizens were interviewed in pre-budget focus groups.

McGuinty defended the hefty untendered contract awarded to the Canadian Policy Research Networks, a non-profit group, and rejected charges that the focus groups were rigged.

He also refused to rule out any particular measures that would help him balance the books.

"There's no doubt about it, we're going to have to make some sacrifices," he told reporters yesterday.

"We've got to make some tough choices here. What we are placing as our priorities are health care and education and the question we are asking ourselves and ... Ontarians is: So just how far are you prepared to go to support health care and education?"

Senior government sources told the Star that McGuinty's trial balloon was "preconditioning for the fact that there is going to have to be something" unpopular in the May 18 budget.

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