Finally some positive news for the horse racing industry in Ontario!
OHRIA Encouraged by Major Policy Change to Horse Industry File
With less than a month remaining before the industry’s share of revenue from the Slots at Racetracks Program ends, OHRIA ‘s continuing efforts to engage the Premier and the government have resulted in a major policy change regarding the Horse Racing and Breeding Industry in Ontario.
In a press-conference earlier today, Premier Kathleen Wynne, speaking in her role of Minister of Agriculture and Food, announced that the Horse Racing and Breeding Industry will be integrated into the provincial gaming strategy to ensure future revenue streams for race tracks to continue to operate racing.
In a press release from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Minister Wynne stated, “We continue to work with other tracks while we work with the sector on a new market-driven model that works for the industry and is good public policy.”
Being integrated into the gaming strategy provides the industry with a chance to work with government to ensure a vibrant horse racing and breeding industry.
“There is still a long road ahead of us,” cautioned Sue Leslie, President of OHRIA, “However we now have the opportunity to plan a more sustainable future for the horse racing and breeding industry working in partnership with the government instead of competing against the Province’s other gaming products.”
Minister Wynne stressed that consultation with the horse racing and breeding industry, represented by OHRIA, continue with the government appointed Horse Racing Transition Panel. “We need the process of integration to begin as soon as possible if we have any chance of future survival for the industry.” stressed Sue Leslie, stating that the OHRIA Board has conveyed the importance of action and not just words. “It is breeding season again and we must instill confidence for breeders and owners by proving that breeding and racing in Ontario is a secure investment.”
The OHRIA Board understands that the livelihoods of many in the industry will depend on the outcome of this latest development. “We are all hurting from the actions of this government,” commented Ms Leslie, “The lives of thousands of hard-working individuals and families have been turned upside down. With all that this industry has been through the past year, it is understandably difficult to trust that these latest developments are going to yield the desired results. However we view this as an important and positive step and we must continue to work with our current government to achieve a more sustainable future for our industry.”
For more information go to value4money.ca or contact OHRIA at 416-679-0741 email@example.com
Toronto Star Sports Writer Dave Perkins shares his thoughts on the last day of racing at Woodbine
End of an Era
Great story by Jennifer Morrison on how those who work at the race-tracks worry about what will happen now.
Racetrack workers worry about industry
Horse owner Derek Reid of Courtice Ontario put it quite well. Here is an exerpt from his letter to Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.
After receiving your response to my email questioning why your government is subsidizing the owners of bingo parlours in the province of Ontario, I feel the need for some clarification from you as your response has left me confused.You claim that bingo parlours are not subsidized, because according to your email the bingo hall operator does not receive tax money, but instead receives 47% of net winnings from the electronic lottery terminals that are being placed inside bingo halls.However, for the last nine months, you have been telling everyone that will listen to you that the horse racing industry is subsidized, because it receives 20% of winnings from electronic slot machines placed on their premises.I'm sure you can see where my confusion comes from, how can one deal where a private industry hosts electronic gambling on behalf of the province be considered a subsidy, while another deal with a private industry to host electronic gambling on behalf of the province is not a subsidy?What is especially confusing about this contradiction on your part is that the deal you are rejecting, the slots at racetrack deal, would appear to be a better deal than the one you have signed with bingo parlours.Under the slots at racetrack program (SARP), the province received 75% of the revenue, versus only 25% with bingo parlours.Under SARP municipalities received 5% of the revenue, versus only 3% with bingo parlours.So I ask you Mr. Duncan, what in your mind makes SARP a subsidy and your bingo hall deal not?Is it because bingo halls are owned by people like Larry Tannenbaum (the former revenue chair of the liberal party, a campaign donor to your party in the last election, and personal friend of Paul Godfrey) that makes their deal not a subsidy in your mind?Is this why the slots at racetrack program is being sacrificed, to benefit your wealthy friends and campaign donors?Or is this an admission by you that you have in fact been lying to the people of Ontario for the last nine months and the SAR program is not a subsidy but rather a lucrative revenue sharing agreement that has benefited the Ontario tax payer to the tune of $1.1 billion a year?An agreement that you are now tossing aside, just like the 55,000 people employed in the horse racing industry, strictly for the benefit of your wealthy friends.You have also stated on many occasions that you were forced to 'choose' between horse racing and education or health care, so you chose education and health care.Are you saying now that when you were forced to choose between bingo and education, you chose bingo?And when you were further forced to choose between bingo and health care, you chose bingo again?
Thanks for sending this to me Derek. Go to our Sound Off page and drop in a comment!
Here is an interesting column on the revenue generated for the government by the slots program and just what it means to all taxpayers in Ontario.
Ontario municipalities receive $61M annually from current slots revenue system
July 12, 2012 07:07:00
Further evidence your taxes likely will rise when the slots-at-racetracks program ends next March came last week when the treasurer for the town of Milton said residents could be hit with a tax increase of between 22 and 25 per cent without a cut of gaming revenue.
It was just the kind of message the beleaguered horse racing sector needed in its struggle to reach average citizens disinterested in the industry's plight and slow to appreciate the incredible economic benefits the slots-at-racetracks program provides to all Ontarians.
Linda Leeds, the director of corporate services/treasurer for the Town of Milton, said without the slot hall at Mohawk Racetrack, in Campbellville, or an alternative gaming site in the town, residents would have tomake upa considerable financial shortfall.
Through the revenue-sharing agreement due to end next year, Milton receives between $5.5 million and $6 million annually from its direct cut ofslotrevenue at Mohawk, the third most profitable slot hall in the province.
Once the slots program ends, the Township of Centre Wellington will face a $2.25 million annual shortfall without its cut of slot revenue from Grand River Raceway in Elora.
In Toronto, the loss of direct revenue from the slot parlour at Woodbine Racetrack will be more than $15 million annually. In Hamilton, the loss to the city from Flamboro Downs would be some $4.6 million a year. Ottawa would face a $4.5 million shortfall. London would need to replace some $4.1 million annually. The Barrie-area town of Innisfil would be down $4.4 million.
With no replacement gaming facilities in sight - and certainly none likely to be open by April of next year – the 17 municipalities in Ontario will face a collect shortfall of over $61 million each year once the slots-at-racetrack program ends.
Why should you care if you live in Guelph, which currently doesn't receive a cut of gaming revenue?
Consider the rising social benefit costs of throwing a huge percentage of the 60,000 people in the horse racing sector out of work – many unskilled, rural labourers that will struggle to find other employment. Many of those people live and work in the Guelph region, which is a hotbed for the harness racing industry. Many of those people pay taxes in Guelph and currently spend their money in the local economy buying goods and services.
Then there's the loss of general revenue from the slots-at-racetracks program that goes to fund provincial programs such as health care and education. The program is the most successful branch of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming corporation's offerings, delivering over $1.1 billion in annually. How does the Liberal government plan to replace $1.1 billion in revenue? Ideas about expanding gaming to every region in Ontario are vague at best and years away from being implemented.
Already, the province is facing a $100 million annual shortfall due to lost revenue from the threeslot machinehalls it has already closed at Windsor Raceway, Fort Erie Racetrack and Hiawatha Horse Park in Sarnia - operations that employed well over 500 people, collectively, in the slot halls alone in municipalities that are down about $1.5 million a year apiece without their cut.
While the OLG's assumption is that people who played the slots at those tracks will take their money to nearby casinos, there's no evidence that is happening, or will happen.
All of this is yet another indication of the Liberals' incredible shortsightedness and fiscal mismanagement. It comes on the heels of the eHealth and ORNGE scandals and Wednesday's news that relocating a power plant from Mississauga to Sarnia will ultimately cost taxpayers $180 million. Taxpayers are expected to take a similarly huge hit from the Liberals' decision in 2010 to cancel a $1.2 billion gas plant project slated for Oakville.
What's a billion here and a few hundred million dollars there to you and me when the province is in a $15 billion hole that's growing?
The bottom line is this: whether you care about horse racing or not and whether you live in the city or a rural location, unless something is done soon to change the Liberals' minds, the cancellation of the slots-at-racetracks program is going to hit you in the wallet – hard.
Dave Briggs is the publisher and editor of The Canadian Sportsman, the oldest harness racing magazine in North America. He can be reached by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
I was one of the speakers at the rally for the horse industry. There were a number of passionate people
Digital Playhouse Productions Rally Footage
POLL SHOWS THAT TORONTONIANS PREFER WOODBINE FOR CASINO LOCATION
Toronto, April 17, 2012 - A recently commissioned poll by Woodbine Entertainment Group, conducted by Environics Research Group, shows that 51% of Torontonians surveyed support the idea of a casino at Woodbine.
The survey of City of Toronto residents shows that there is considerably more support for a casino at Woodbine than at other locations. This was particularly apparent in Woodbine's local neighbourhood of Etobicoke, where there was 60% support.
In contrast, the survey found that the majority of Torontonians opposed a casino in the downtown area - 62% of Torontonians opposed a casino at Ontario Place (only 34% are supportive) and 59% opposed a casino at the CNE (only 37% are supportive).
"We were not surprised with the results indicating Woodbine as the preferred location for a Toronto Casino, particularly by residents of Etobicoke given our social, economic and safety record in the community," said Nick Eaves, President and CEO of Woodbine Entertainment Group. "Woodbine Entertainment Group is recognized provincially, nationally and internationally as a premier racing operator. Our successful partnership with the OLG has made Woodbine the most profitable gaming site in Ontario, so expansion to a casino site would be both logical and easily facilitated."
Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) is the largest operator of horse racing in Canada and is recognized as one of the most innovative in North America. In addition to its two racetracks - Woodbine in Toronto and Mohawk in Milton, WEG operates the Champions Off-Track Wagering network, plus WEGZ Stadium Bar in Vaughan, Turf Lounge in downtown Toronto and Greenwood Teletheatre in the Beach Area of the City. Remote wagering is also available to customers through HorsePlayer Interactive (HPI), the Company's telephone and online account wagering service. WEG offers this service to all Canadian racetracks. WEG also operates HPItv, a CRTC licensed digital television channel that broadcasts its racing product into homes across Canada.
WEG is committed to being a leader within the horse racing industry and in the communities in which it operates. The corporation has earned industry recognition, multiple awards and customer and community respect for its progressive and leading corporate responsibility agenda.
Had the pleasure of speaking to many across Ontario in a virtual town hall on the slots at Racetracks program. I was the host for a panel discussion last night on what will happen to the industry if the government goes through with the cancellation. A fascinating group of people from all segments of the horse industry affected shared their thoughts and then we spoke with many of you worried about your jobs and your communities. Go to value4money.ca for ways to fight this.
Here are the results of the polls taken during the town hall.
Should the government maintain the OLG Slots at Racetracks Program with 20% of slots revenue going to the horsemen and racetracks?
Yes 92% No 8% Total
Would you support a casino in your community? **We called communities that already host slots at racetracks.
Yes 67% No 33% Total
Are you satisfied with the government's proposed OLG gaming expansion?
Satisfied 9% Un-satisfied 91%
It was a cold Friday afternoon but protestors were out across the Province hoping to impress upon the Premier that his decision on the Slots at Racetracks program is a big mistake! Make your phone calls too.
The horse racing industry needs your help! 60,000 people are employed either full or part-time. Why do you care? Since the partnership program brings in more than a billion dollars a year for the provincial government it means that's tax you don't have to pay. Health care and education reap great rewards from this program. It also means that people invest in breeding programs in this province that grow the industry and again pay great dividends for the provincial coffers. If the government cancels this program because they want to keep 100% of the revenue from the slots at racetrack program rather than allow the 20% share to be re-invested in the industry it will mean many of the 60,000 employed end up on the social assistance roles rather than productive taxpaying citizens. Which makes more sense to you?
Find out how you can have your voice heard http://value4money.ca/
Had a note from a Standardbred Driver in Guelph. He loves his business and is very worried about what will happen to his family if this goes through. See his video Anthony MacDonald
Three Quarters of Ontarians Approve of Slots at Racetracks Program: Majority Support it's Protection - Forum Research Poll
Fully three quarters of Ontarians say they approve of the 'Slots at the Racetrack" program (74%), and two thirds approve of the specific terms of the deal OLG has with Ontario's horse racing tracks (61%) according to a new survey conducted by Forum Research on behalf of the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association.
The vast majority say it is important that the 60,000 jobs connected to Ontario's racing and breeding industry stay in the province (84%), and close to one third say it is "extremely important" (31%).
Most feel that the 20% of slot revenues the tracks receive is the right percentage (43%), although many think it is too low (30%).
Three quarters of Ontarians (77%) say it is important that the jobs and revenues created by 'Slots at the Racetrack' be maintained, and close to one quarter say it is "extremely important" (22%)
The majority do not approve of the provincial government building more casinos (58%) and a similar proportion disapprove of a casino being built in their town (57%).
One half approve of gaming tables at racetracks (50%), and the largest group thinks the best plan for OLG is to leave slots at the racetracks and refrain from building new resort casinos. Only a small minority opt for removing slots from racetracks, either to new casinos (8%) or to purpose built slot facilities (5%).
When asked where slots should ideally be located, two thirds say "at racetracks, where they are now" (62%).
"It is clear Ontarians understand the importance of Ontario's horse racing and breeding association and that they want their government to act to protect this industry," said Sue Leslie, President of OHRIA. "We hope the government will commit to honouring the existing contracts through 2015 and developing a sustainable way forward for the industry so that we can continue generating more than $1.1 billion dollars per year for healthcare."
This poll was conducted by Forum Research Inc for OHRIA between March 17 and March 22, 2012, on a sample of 1006 randomly selected respondents. Interviews were conducted by telephone using an RDD sample. The margin of error for a sample this size is plus or minus 3%, 19 times out of 20.