Ontario’s horse racing industry spoke out today (March 30) at rallies across the province
against the decision announced by the Liberal government and Ontario Lottery and
Gaming Corp. (OLG) to end the Slots-At-Racetracks program by March 2013.
The Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA) hosted rallies in
support of Ontario horse racing and the Slots-At-Racetracks program at the
offices of 11 Liberal MPPs including Christopher Bentley (London West), Laurel
C. Broten, (Etobicoke—Lakeshore), Kim Craitor (Niagara Falls), Dwight Duncan
(Windsor—Tecumseh), Jeff Leal (Peterborough), Dave Levac (Brant), Ted McMeekin
(Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale), John Milloy (Kitchener Centre), Liz
Sandals (Guelph), Joe Dickson, (Ajax—Pickering), and Deborah Matthews (London
“This is one step of a multi-faceted plan to attempt to influence the
government decision,” OHRIA’s Dave Drew was quoted as saying at the Niagara
Falls rally in a video report by the Fort
Erie Times. “Our hope is that the Ontario Horse Racing Industry
Association can sit down with the government and have some constructive
discussions about alternatives. We understand there is a deficit that has to be
dealt with, but we would like the opportunity to sit down with the government
and review other options, other possibilities, other than the current plan
related to Slots-At-Racetracks.”
Horse racing industry representatives shared stories of their own personal
involvement in racing and contributions to their local economies at the various
rallies. Representatives also presented the facts and figures illustrating
Ontario’s horse racing industry’s value to the overall provincial economy while
dispelling the inaccuracies presented by the Liberal leaders in recent weeks.
Among the speakers were owners, drivers, trainers, and breeders from the
standardbred, thoroughbred and quarter horse breeds.
“Minister Duncan, it’s time to put the facts first. It’s time to stop this
shameful attack on our industry that brings $2 billion to the Ontario economy,”
standardbred owner Lou Liebenau was quoted as saying by InsideToronto.com
at the Etobicoke—Lakeshore rally.
Liebenau addressed the misrepresentation of facts about Ontario horse racing
by Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, who had publicly questioned the figure of
60,000 jobs supported within the industry. Liebenau pointed to reports by
Duncan’s fellow Liberal ministers that supported those figures.
During Winsdor’s rally, Brian Tropea, general manager of the Ontario Harness
Horse Association (OHHA), provided those reports to Duncan’s office.
“Part of the reason we’re here today is to clear up some misconceptions, some
misinformation, some downright lies about our industry that you’ve been
hearing,” Tropea says in a video report from the rally by the Windsor
Star. “You’ve been hearing the word ‘subsidy’ a lot. It’s not a
subsidy. The horse racing industry receives 20 per cent of the revenue from the
Slots-At-Racetracks [program]. If anyone is being subsidized it’s the
government. They take 80 per cent of the revenues.”
“The way this was handled by the Liberal government and Dwight Duncan was
very underhanded,” added long-time horseman Bob McIntosh. “They pushed it
through using the OLG because they knew it wouldn’t pass in the legislation and
they sprung it on us with no time to adjust really. Everybody has a three year
business plan and they’ve given us one year or less to adapt.”
Meanwhile in Guelph, Emerald Ridge Farms’ Anna Meyers, president of the
Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association (SBOA), also addressed the lack of
insight the Liberal government appears to have on how far-reaching their
decision to end the Slots-At-Racetrack revenue sharing agreement is.
“There are elements of the business that the government didn’t think about or
understand,” Meyers was quoted as saying in the Guelph
Mercury. “It’s the scariest thing most of us in the industry have ever
been through. We’ve poured everything into our farm and into our livestock. To
think that with one announcement that can all be jeopardized — it’s
In Kitchener, Meyers’ husband Pat spoke of the losses their farm has already
seen since the announcement was made that the revenue sharing agreement would be
“So far, we’ve had 10 to 12 mares leave our farm because the owners of those
horses are moving them down to New York state because they’re afraid of the
future and what’s going to be here in Ontario. We’ve been hit hard already,” the
longtime veterinarian and breeder was quoted as saying in The
Record. “We buy feed. We buy hay. The ripple effect throughout the
whole industry is unbelievable.”
Ontario Federation of Agriculture’s Mark Reusser elaborated on how the
agricultural industry as a whole will feel those ripple effects.
“A deadening of economic activity in rural Ontario…fewer people buying hay
and straw, fewer people providing feed, a downturn in the industries that
support the race horse industries,” he was quoted as saying at the rally in a
CTV Southwestern Ontario video report.
Horse racing is the second largest sub-sector of Ontario’s agricultural
economy. The industry received $345 million last year from the
Slots-At-Racetracks program, which sustains over 60,000 jobs, produces over $2
billion in expenditures and $261 million a year in taxes. Meanwhile, the Ontario
government’s share of revenues from the profitable program is over $1.1 billion,
used to help fund education and health care.
“This has been a partnership that has benefited everybody,” OHHA director
David Gibson was quoted as saying at the Peterbourough rally by the Peterborough
(Courtesy of Standardbred Canada)