P.E.I. taxpayers will likely pay for e-gaming loan

Teresa Wright twright@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on December 23, 2015

P.E.I. taxpayers will likely pick up the tab for a $950,000 government loan that funded the province’s now infamous e-gaming scheme, Premier Wade MacLauchlan conceded in his year-end interview with The Guardian.

MacLauchlan was questioned on where this money went and what will happen with this loan, which remains outstanding and has been accruing interest of approximately $3,000 a month.

The premier sidestepped answering detailed questions about the loan, referring instead to the auditor general’s ongoing audit of the province’s failed e-gaming venture.

When asked whether taxpayers would be on the hook for this $950,000 loan, MacLauchlan suggested that would indeed be the likely outcome.

“Yes, I expect so, but we’ll just have to find out what the outcome (of the auditor general’s investigation) and, in fact, to respond accordingly.”

RELATED: E-gaming loan unpaid to P.E.I. government from Mi’kmaq Confederacy

The Guardian obtained a copy of the $950,000 loan contract signed between the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. and Innovation P.E.I. through a freedom of information request, and published details of the loan last month.

According to the document, the money was to be used to finance work done in 2011/2012 to try to make Prince Edward Island an Internet gambling regulator for the whole country.

The proposal was estimated to be worth upwards of $85 million a year in new tax and licensing revenues for the P.E.I. government.

The terms of repayment for the loan contain two unusual provisions - the Mi’kmaq Confederacy was not obliged to pay any money back.

Only future gaming revenues would be used to repay the loan.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE YEAR-END INTERVIEW

The contract also stipulates the Confederacy would be off the hook if e-gaming did not go ahead.

Government scrapped the e-gaming proposal in February 2012.

Economic Development Minister Heath MacDonald confirmed last month the $950,000 loan remains outstanding.

But questions raised since, notably by the Opposition Conservatives in the legislature, about who would be responsible for repaying this loan have been left unanswered.

MacLauchlan now concedes taxpayers will likely be on the hook, but says he is looking forward to the auditor general’s findings and has committed to take action on issues that may arise from her report.

“What we’ve said all along is that we are bringing a new way of doing business and Islanders will have the auditor general’s report,” he said.

“We intend to take that to heart and act on it and to square up to any issues that are pointed out by the auditor general.”

The premier expects the auditor general’s report on e-gaming will be delivered “in the first three or four months of the new year.”

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa