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Opposition Liberals are calling for a public inquiry into how a small horse racetrack outside Toronto won the right to install 200 slot machines that will bring in millions of dollars each year.

Monte Kwinter said he wants the Integrity Commissioner to investigate whether there is any link between this decision and the $80,000 donation to Enterprise Minister Jim Flaherty and another $10,000 to Premier Ernie Eves during the Progressive Conservative leadership campaign by racetrack operator Norm Picov and the companies he owns.

The issue of slot machines at the Picov Downs Racetrack in Ajax, just east of Toronto, has simmered since last year when the government granted the track the right to apply for up to 800 slot machines.

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Last November, the Conservatives used their majority in the Ontario Legislature to turn aside an earlier call by Mr. Kwinter for a public inquiry into the issue.

Finance Minister Janet Ecker, whose riding includes Ajax, issued a news release to local newspapers yesterday saying the government had accepted a recommendation of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission in granting Picov Downs the right to install 200 slots.

Mr. Kwinter suggested yesterday that the decision by the government to allow the slots at Picov Downs cries out for an investigation into whether the decision is connected to donations to Mr. Flaherty and Mr. Eves.

"That's the only explanation I can reasonably figure," Mr. Kwinter told reporters yesterday. "There certainly has to be questions asked." In her release, the Finance Minister said the slot allocation is proportional to what other small racetracks have received.

Mr. Kwinter, who once served as a cabinet minister with responsibility for the racing industry, said it was "totally outrageous" that a facility the size of Picov Downs could be granted so many slots.

He said just $281,136 was wagered on quarter-horse racing in 2001 at Picov Downs and that, in contrast, just 100 slots were allocated to a track in Hanover which had wagering of more than $6-million. At Woodbine Racetrack, where more than $886-million was wagered in 2001, there are 1,700 slot machines.

Mr. Kwinter estimated that each machine would generate $500 revenue a day or about $36.5-million a year, of which the owner can keep 10 per cent or $3.65-million.

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Ms. Ecker has said it is wrong to suspect a connection between the application and Mr. Picov's donations. Mr. Flaherty has said it was "unsavoury" to suggest a link.

Mr. Picov has insisted that the donations had nothing to do with the application for slot machines. He said that he and his family expected nothing in return for supporting Mr. Flaherty and Mr. Eves.

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