Horse owner and fan Aaron Waxman points out the various financial benefits Ontario racing brings to the economy, including attracting foreign dollars. The following article is reprinted from in the Hamilton Spectator, March 5, 2012:
A lesson in ‘equine-omics’
Horse racing is a great partnership for Queen’s Park
By Aaron Waxman
Horse racing in Ontario is a powerful contributor to our provincial economy, our cultural heritage, the provincial agriculture sector, and protects environmentally important green space.
Finance Minister Dwight Duncan and Premier Dalton McGuinty have recently publicly contemplated the termination of contractual revenue-sharing agreements with Ontario’s racetracks. This termination would significantly undermine the success and viability of the horse racing industry, and effectively reduce many of the spinoff benefits our province enjoys. It is my belief that both Duncan and McGuinty’s logic is flawed, and they and their advisers have not been diligent and thorough with respect to this recommendation.
Horse racing in Ontario is one of the most widely accessible and highly attended professional sports in the province with an infrastructure of 17 racetracks, providing both entertainment and significant employment to numerous communities across the province.
Ontario’s racetracks joined into “slots at racetracks” partnerships with the province starting in 1998. These agreements allowed the province to utilize the existing facilities and benefit from the captured clientele base of the racetracks in order to economically expedite expanded gaming revenue for the province’s benefit. The “slots at racetracks” program has proved to be very profitable and mutually beneficial; the province (through Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation) receives 75 per cent of revenues, the local municipality receives 5 per cent, the host racetrack receives 10 per cent, and the horse people receive 10 per cent.
Horse racing has vastly different economic implications in our province than other types of alternative gambling. Horse racing is labour- and capital-intensive by nature; as a result, it directly stimulates employment and consumerism. Through associated businesses, the industry also attracts a significant injection of highly desirable and sought-after foreign capital.
Contrastingly, other forms of gambling such as casinos have very few positive economic implications, locally and provincially, except for the direct revenues that are primarily earned from domestic sources (i.e. the existing taxpayer base).
Ontario’s horse racing industry reportedly directly impacts approximately 60,000 jobs across the province. Moreover, horse racing is the second largest agricultural industry in the province. Associated industries and taxpaying businesses that rely on this industry’s success include feed companies, construction, fabricators, trailer manufacturers, transportation companies, veterinarians, hay and crop farmers and insurance brokers. More directly, horse trainers, breeding and boarding farms, horse drivers and jockeys, blacksmiths and training centres are tied to the success, or not, of the horse racing industry.
If the current agreements are aborted, many such taxpaying businesses will be destroyed and no longer be able to contribute to Ontario’s already troubled economy.
From an environmental perspective, Ontario’s breeding farms, crop farmers, training centres and boarding farms utilize and protect thousands of acres of environmentally sensitive green space.
At a time when the Canadian dollar hovers near parity with the U.S. dollar, it is very difficult to stimulate investment and injection of foreign capital into the Ontario economy. The horse racing industry in Ontario is one of very few industries able to overcome the effects of our strengthening dollar. As a global leader, the horse racing industry (specifically, the harness racing industry) in Ontario continues to attract increased investment and expenditure from foreign sources, primarily American investment, but as far reaching as Sweden and New Zealand.
Ontario is a premier harness racing destination internationally. This results in foreign injections into our economy of millions of dollars in stud fees paid to Ontario breeding farms and stallion owners for breeding of Ontario-registered stallions, purchases of Ontario-bred horses by foreign buyers, boarding fees paid for internationally owned horses in Ontario, as well as training fees, veterinary charges and blacksmith charges paid to Ontario businesses.
Indeed, Ontario’s horse racing industry provides tangible long-term benefits by contributing to the sustainability of many diverse industries and sources of employment. It is obvious that if the provincial government advanced a plan to reduce the revenue sharing agreements with the racetracks and racing industry, there would be serious and broadly felt consequences.
—Aaron Waxman lives in Hamilton. He is a racehorse owner and horseracing fan.