The Ontario government has nominated Philip Olsson, an experienced Bay Street banker and current chair of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, to take over the chairmanship of the province’s gambling agency.
Mr. Olsson, whose appointment must be confirmed by a legislative committee, would take over the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation at a pivotal time, as the agency seeks to modernize without provoking another fractious debate on casinos. He would also be charged with integrating the province’s horse-racing industry into the OLG, a key part of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s gambling strategy.
Finance Minister Charles Sousa also announced that he would nominate lawyer and academic Edward Waitzer to replace Mr. Olsson at the LCBO.
“Mr. Olsson and Mr. Waitzer each bring a wealth of experience and proven track records as two of Canada’s top business leaders,” Mr. Sousa said in a statement. “Their guidance and oversight would help ensure that OLG and LCBO continue to be run efficiently and are positioned for long-term success.”
The appointments come a little more than two months after Ms. Wynne and Mr. Sousa axed the previous OLG chair, media executive Paul Godfrey. His ouster was part of a change in direction for the OLG.
Mr. Godfrey, who had been hired by former finance minister Dwight Duncan, was steering the agency through a massive modernization, designed to boost revenues by building new casinos. When Ms. Wynne took power, she stopped pushing casinos aggressively in the face of opposition from residents in downtown Toronto and Hamilton.
Ms. Wynne called Mr. Godfrey on the carpet after he tried to offer Toronto a special deal not available to other cities on casino hosting fees to persuade the city to accept a gambling palace. Sources said the pair also disagreed on the horse racing industry.
Mr. Duncan announced plans to pull the racing industry’s slots revenue, which the government viewed as a subsidy. But Ms. Wynne has opted for a gentler approach, integrating horse-racing into the OLG and continuing subsidies in the short term while the industry shrinks.
It will fall to Mr. Olsson to oversee this process. He will also preside over the contracting out of the provincial lottery, a process designed to modernize it and pump up its revenue.
The agency’s most difficult task, however, will be to open new casinos without promoting them too aggressively.
The OLG has been run by a technocratic board made up of civil servants since Mr. Godfrey’s ouster.
Mr. Olsson, has a three-decade history in the financial sector. He is currently a partner in KJ Harrison and Partners Inc., an investment firm, and chairman of Connaught Oil and Gas Limited, a Calgary-based firm. He is also a former vice-chair of RBC Dominion Securities.
Mr. Waitzer, a former chair of the Ontario Security Commission, is a partner at Stikeman Elliott LLP. He is director of the Hennick Centre for Business and Law at York University.