Sue Leslie, President of the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association, recently spoke on the process of integrating horse racing with the province’s gaming arm — the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.
The update was part of an audio interview posted on the OHRIA website.
“Well,” Leslie said with a sigh to interviewer Norm Borg, “integration continues to be a very slow process, unfortunately. I do believe that the people involved at OLG and the province are sincerely working with us and trying to move integration along.
“The more involved we get in it, the more complex it becomes and, as you know, OLG were operating for some time without a CEO. Stephen Rigby now is in charge over there and I’ve found him to be very demonstrative, very willing to work with us, a good communicator. And so I think that getting him in place is going to help the process a lot.”
Leslie noted that one of the key individuals working on the integration process — Larry Flynn, Senior Vice President of Gaming at OLG — is retiring at the end of the month after 14 years.
“[Larry] probably understood our industry better than most there so that will be a little bit of a setback but I know he’s been briefing Stephen (Rigby) like crazy. We have had excellent communication, and I have had excellent communication. I think Phil Olsson, the Chair, has done a good job in the selection there.”
Noting that she’s well aware of the frustration on the horse racing industry side, Leslie offered reasons for those wondering why the process isn’t moving as quickly as everyone would like.
“The frustration is hard to take some days. I know the OHRIA Product Committee, who’s been working for months now to get something up and moving, sure has their frustrating days…but you’re trying to satisfy two regulators, you’re trying to satisfy legislation, you’re trying not to cannibalize existing products, and figure out how strategically a product will work to increase money both for the province and horse racing. It is a very complex issue.”
In addition to this integration, Leslie notes that there is still some discussion at the government level on where the horse racing industry should be placed and reporting to: OLG or OMAFRA.
“Those things are all being discussed right now to try and figure out both how the government should be governed as it pertains to horse racing…if we’re actually going to become a part of OLG, which is what the Premier wants — us to be fully integrated. Well, if we’re going to be fully integrated, that’s a big step.
“So, we need to make decisions on the governance on the government side and we also need to finalize governance on the industry side. Are the right people sitting at the table? How should that move forward? How should it work with OHR, ORC, AGCO, not to mention all the industry members…so we’re looking at that model to see if the existing model really or does that need to be tweaked somehow. Or does some type of interim governance model make sense as we go through integration and transition. Not to make excuses but they are very time-consuming.”
Leslie concluded the integration discussion with assurance and confidence that those involved have the best interests of horse racing in their scope of vision.
“All I can say is I believe OHRIA is working hard and both OLG and government — Minister Leal at OMAFRA has been terrific, I really believe Minister Leal cares about horse racing and he has his staff working diligently on all these things too. We’re trying to marry it all together — the agencies, the ministries, the industry — and come up with a formula that is going to work best for the future for everybody.”
To listen to the full interview, with Leslie’s thoughts on the new tapeta surface going in at Woodbine Racetrack as well as the Pari-Mutuel Tax Reduction, click the play button below.