April 18, 2014

Ontario Racing Commission Chair Rod Seiling Meets With Horse Racing Industry Representatives

The Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) called a meeting of horse racing industry representatives on November 16, 2012.

The purpose of the meeting was to provide clarification and additional information about the process of licensing racetracks for pari-mutuel purposes, as well as determining Race Dates for 2013.

ORC Chair Rod Seiling opened the meeting with the following comments:

(A List of those representatives attending the meeting follows his remarks.)

___________________________________________________

Thank you for taking the time to be with us this morning. Before the meeting continues with Steve Lehman and his Administration Team, I would like to give you some context as we all move forward.

I can understand what I suspect is your frustration at this point. We recognize that there still remains a degree of uncertainty as it relates to the future of horse racing. First, please keep in mind that, apart from what happens after March 31, 2013, there will be racing and pari-mutuel betting to that point. It is incumbent upon the ORC to ensure that the regulatory licenses and permits are in place to meet CPMA requirements. Without them, the money would not be able to flow to the tracks’ or horse people’s purses. Most significantly, the customer would be shut out.

At this meeting, we will attempt to answer your questions. As I mentioned, we understand the uncertainty and we will be as flexible as possible within the legal and policy frameworks. A certainty we can give you today is that the ORC is and will continue to be the regulator of horse racing in Ontario, and we will be ready to provide the quality service which licensees and the bettors expect, and deserve.

The government has made it clear it will work with the industry as it relates to a sustainable future. That is why we have made strategic decisions as to how best remake the ORC to fit the service demands you make of us.

These decisions and plans assume a re-focussed and re-energized sport that encompasses all of its sectors working together for a common goal: ensuring the future of horse racing.

It means that you will need to learn to trust one another. Trust is something that normally is earned. Ladies and gentlemen, you do not have the luxury of time, so for many of you it’s going to be a leap of faith. Collaboration needs to be your theme on a go-forward basis.

It is also a time to stop throwing the “hand grenades” as part of a government relations program. Your best friend today is the Panel, working in conjunction with the Minister of Agriculture, Ted McMeekin. They have been operating within a very narrow margin, given the fiscal plight of the province.

In my estimation — notwithstanding the uncertainty and your frustration with the process and timing — one could say they have done extremely well. To be blunt, the Panel and Minister McMeekin have “won”, as it relates to the horse racing file. As the result will mean less racing in Ontario, I acknowledge it is not what you hoped for. But it is a starting point for conversations with the Panel.

The Panel has relied heavily on the ORC for the “facts and figures.” While it may have reached its own conclusions, at the very least, Panel members have the benefit of having the right information at hand. And while we have been told they are open to suggestions, the total dollar amount committed to horse racing rests with the Ministry of Finance.

Before moving on, I do want to recognize the work of ORC staff during these past few months. They have endured the same sense of uncertainty about their future, as have all of you. All the while, they have been true professionals, providing excellent service and in some cases working overtime to supply requested information to the Panel. The Panel’s ability to “get up to speed” on your issues is a direct result of information supplied to them by ORC staff.

Many of you may be wondering how the ORC will be funded after March 31, 2013. I should state that the ORC’s fiscal year and our current budget coincides with this date. That budget has been approved by government, and we will continue to operate on a “business as usual” basis. Looking beyond this fiscal year, the ORC Board has taken the position that it should be funded by government. While we believe the Panel accepted this as part of its model, this has not been confirmed as of this date.

I would like to point out that we gave you a commitment to become more efficient well before the government’s announcement in the spring of this year. And we are. The Panel’s report referenced this and it is fully aware of our efforts in this area.

For example, last March the ORC Board made changes to the Rules of Racing with respect to the minimum number of Racing Officials (Judges or Stewards) required to officiate horse races in Ontario. The rule change was made to allow for two-person stands where needed.

And earlier this fall we introduced a significant modernization, with the implementation of a “Central Adjudication Room,” modeled on the NHL’s centralized video review centre. These efforts have reduced costs.

Beyond efficiencies, I also think it is important to point out that the health and welfare of the horse is becoming an even more pressing issue for horse racing. Some will say the prospect of abandoned horses has influenced the government’s decision to restate its willingness to work with industry. Regardless, the public’s view on that industry with respect to the ethical treatment of race horses is in a state of flux.

Most people have a natural affinity toward the horse. For the horse racing industry, that is a double edged sword: the public is concerned about the welfare of the horse but they also want to know what you intend to do about it. Recent stories in the local, as well as US and international media, demonstrate this changing public standard.

In closing, I raise the issue of integrity. The linkage between integrity and wagering is irrefutable. For horse racing to succeed – and I firmly believe it can – there is one key underpinning, and that is integrity. There is no room for error.

To that end, it is time for all of us in horse racing to “walk the talk.” I can assure you that the ORC will do all it can to assist you. We are already looking at ways the regulator might help, without detracting from due process.

I sincerely hope you take my comments in the positive spirit with which they are intended. You all have heard me raise many of these matters prior to today. I do so because I have an affinity for racing and I care about the thousands of people whose futures are at risk. Let us work together to secure that future.

Thank you. Rod Seiling


LIST OF ATTENDEES

Ajax Downs • Nick Coukos • Emilio Trotta

Clinton Raceway • Ian Fleming

Central Ontario Standardbred Association (COSA) • Bill O’Donnell

Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) • Conrad Cohen •Sue Leslie

Fort Erie Race Track • Jim Thibert • Tom Valiquette

Grand River Raceway • Ted Clarke

Georgian Downs/Flamboro Downs • Bruce Barbour • John Stolte • Jim McGrogan

Hanover Raceway • Gord Dougan • Randy Rier

Hiawatha Horse Park • Jim Henderson • Ryan Trussler

Jockey’s Benefit Association • Robbie King

Kawartha Downs • Jim Huck

Northern Horsemen’s Association (NHA) • Bob Bodkin

Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA) • Sue Leslie

Ontario Harness Horse Association (OHHA) • Ken Hardy • Brian Tropea

Quarter Racing Owners of Ontario (QROOI) • Bob Broadstock • Eric Lehtinen

Rideau Carleton Raceway • Peter Andrusek • Larry Todd

Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association (SBOA) • Anna Meyers

Sudbury Downs • Pat McIsaac • Andrew McIsaac

Western Fair District • Hugh Mitchell • Reg Ash

Woodstock Raceway/Dresden Raceway • Chris Kruba • Pat Souilliere

Woodbine Racetrack/Mohawk Racetrack • Jamie Martin • Jane Holmes

OHRIA Seeks Immediate Reassurance From Ontario Government Prior To Standardbred Yearling Sales

With the conclusion of the CTHS Yearling Sales this past weekend, OHRIA would like to express that it recognizes the devastation that is being caused to the breeding industry in Ontario due to the crisis that has been inflicted by   government with the cancellation of the Slots at Racetracks Program.

OHRIA is aware of the legitimate concerns that, with the poor sales results and the lack of income for our breeders, the industry may be unable to bounce back if an immediate solution is not reached with our government.  OHRIA is encouraged by the response sent by the OMAFRA panel as published here.

OHRIA once again is urging Minister McMeekin and Premier Dalton McGuinty to send out a statement, prior to the Standardbred Sales this weekend, that there will be an Ontario horse racing industry where buyers can race their horses.

OHRIA continues to work with the OMAFRA panel to create an industry plan which the panel feels they can confidently present to government that will provide immediate reassurance that there will be a viable horse racing industry in the future.

OHRIA is asking for the continued patience and support of the entire industry for the month of September while we determine the willingness of the Liberal Government to work with OHRIA and the OMAFRA panel to find a fair and sustainable solution.

(OHRIA) 

OFA and OEF Write Joint Letter To McMeekin About Horse Racing

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and the Ontario Equestrian Association (OEF) jointly have written a lettter to Agriculture Minister Ted McMeekin asking for “an interim plan” to maintain stability in the horse racing industry.

Read the complete letter here.

OHRIA: Industry Needs YOUR Financial Support

The Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA) has released an Open Letter to all industry participants: 

Together we have worked hard to raise awareness about the economic benefits
horse racing and breeding bring to Ontario, while seeking a number of solutions
to protect the industry from the cancellation of the Slots at Racetracks
Program.

I can report progress in working with the government and opposition parties,
but I can’t report success just yet. We know they are beginning to acknowledge
the validity of our arguments and the strength of our industry, but we will
continue to need your help to make our case.

The fight on behalf of all those employed by our industry to date has cost
OHRIA and our members nearly $500,000 and there is still much to do. We have
benefitted greatly from the fact that the Liberals have a minority government,
and as part of our work need to ensure that they don’t win the by-election
coming in Kitchener-Waterloo. With your support, we would have the resources to
hire experts who can strengthen our case with the government officials, and
continue to build the case for maintaining a strong horse racing and breeding
industry in Ontario.

As an industry, we now need the financial support of those who believe in our
cause. If we are to succeed and continue to have the impact we need to, it’s
going to take your help.

Support Your Ontario Horse Racing and Breeding Industry. Donate $50, $100 or
$200 towards OHRIA’s efforts so that we can continue fighting on your behalf.
Click here to donate securely by credit card through  PayPal.

If everyone who receives this email donated, we would be in a strong position
going forward. Knowing that not everyone can or will, please ask yourself what
protecting the horse racing and breeding industry is worth to you when
determining your level of support for our industry.

Donations can be made by Click here credit card through PayPal by clicking here or by
sending cheques payable to “Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association” to OHRIA
at 555 Rexdale Blvd. PO Box 456, Rexdale, Ontario, M9W 5L1.

Thank you again for the support you’ve shown the horse racing and breeding
industry to date, I hope I can count on you to continue supporting our efforts.

Sincerely,

Sue Leslie – President and Chair
Ontario Horse Racing Industry
Association

Essex MPP Taras Natyshak Urges McGuinty Government To Meet With Horse Racing Industry Immediately

The following press release from the office of NDP MPP Taras Natyshak (Essex) was issued this afternoon (May 15) and calls on McGuinty’s government to meet with the horse racing industry IMMEDIATELY:

 

QUEEN’S PARK – After putting thousands of jobs in the horseracing sector in jeopardy, the McGuinty government must meet immediately with the sector and consult on ways to support jobs, says NDP MPP Taras Natyshak (Essex).

“The horseracing industry is an important part of the agricultural industry in Ontario. We keep hearing from the government that consultation with the horseracing industry will happen ‘in due course.’ But breeders are making business decisions that are three years away… Business cannot operate in this ‘due course.’ They need firm commitments,” said Natyshak in Question Period this morning (May 15). “When exactly will the government make good on its promise to consult the horseracing sector on a path forward?”

Yesterday, Natyshak spoke at length about the issue during debate on the government’s budget legislation, focusing on the financial and economic effects of the decision, which has the potential to put thousands of Ontarians out of work. Long-term impacts could also include significant losses in the tourism industry, as the horseracing industry draws visitors from across North America.

Today Natyshak stressed that impacts from decision could spread beyond job losses.

“Not only will this government’s decision on the horseracing sector – made without any consultation – have an impact on thousands of jobs; we’re hearing that horses might have to be slaughtered as a result,” explained Natyshak.

Harness Racing Owner Ed James Takes Ontario Horse Racing’s Plight Mainstream With Toronto Star Ad

Harness racing owner Ed James underwrote a full page ad on behalf of the Ontario horse racing industry in the Toronto Star on Monday, May 14th. James took the McGuinty Government to task for its cavalier treatment of the industry and disregard for the thousands of jobs eliminated with the cancellation of the Slots at Racetracks program. Read the full story here.

Your Input To Save Horse Racing Is Crucial–Contact NDP Members of Provincial Parliament NOW!

 

OHRIA is calling on anyone impacted by the termination of the Slots at Racetracks program to contact their closest  NDP member of the Ontario Legislature. Some guidelines are provided below to make this a quick and easy process:

1) Call your own NDP MPP or the closest NDP MPP to your community (see below).
Tell them your name, what city you live in, how horse racing impacts you. Urge them to support honouring the OLG Slots at Racetracks Program through 2015 and to have the government negotiate with OHRIA on the long term future of the industry.
e.g. ‘My name is XXXX XXXXX. I’m from XXXXXXX and work as a XXXXXXX. Can you please tell MPP XXXXX that it’s important to me and thousands of other Ontarians that the NDP demand the government honour the OLG Slots at Racetracks Program through 2015 to protect the 60,000 jobs Ontario’s horse racing and breeding industry support? That will give the government and OHRIA time to work together on a long term plan for our industry.

2) Call the NDP Budget hotline 1-855-ONT BDGT (1-855-668-2348). Leave a voice message supporting Ontario’s horse racing and breeding industry. The NDP want to know what you like/dislike about the budget, whether you would support an election,your name, city  and phone number.

A sample message is: ‘My name is XXXX XXXXX. I’m from XXXXXXX and work as a XXXXXXX. I dislike the government’s plan to cancel the OLG Slots at Racetracks Program because it will kill 60,000 jobs in Ontario and really hurt rural Ontario. If you’re going to support the budget, I want you to make your support conditional on the government honouring the OLG Slots at Racetracks Program through 2015 to protect the 60,000 jobs Ontario’s horse racing and breeding industry support. That will give the government and OHRIA time to work together on a long term plan for our industry. If the government won’t agree to that, then I would support an election and will vote for the party that supports Ontario’s horse racing and breeding industry.

3) Call Andrea Horwath’s Office 416 325 2777: Tell them your name, what city you live in, how horse racing impacts you. Urge them to support honouring the OLG Slots at Racetracks Program through 2015 and to have the government negotiate with OHRIA on the long term future of the industry.
e.g. ‘My name is XXXX XXXXX. I’m from XXXXXXX and work as a XXXXXXX. Can you please tell MPP Horwath that it’s important to me and thousands of other Ontarians that the NDP demand the government honour the OLG Slots at Racetracks Program through 2015 to protect the 60,000 jobs Ontario’s horse racing and breeding industry support? That will give the government and OHRIA time to work together on a long term plan for our industry.

Please contact the NDP Member closest to you:

Teresa J. Armstrong (London–Fanshawe) 519-668-1104
Gilles Bisson (Timmins–James Bay) 705-268-6400
Sarah Campbell (Kenora–Rainy River) 807-274-7619
Cheri DiNovo (Parkdale–High Park) 416-763-5630
Cindy Forster (Welland) 905-732-6884
France Gélinas (Nickel Belt) 705-969-3621
Andrea Horwath (Hamilton Centre) 905-544-9644
Michael Mantha (Algoma–Manitoulin) 705-461-9710
Rosario Marchese (Trinity–Spadina) 416-603-9664
Paul Miller (Hamilton East–Stoney Creek) 905-545-0114
Taras Natyshak (Essex) 519-776-6420
Michael Prue( Beaches–East York) 416-690-1032
Jonah Schein (Davenport) 416-535-3158
Peter Tabuns (Toronto–Danforth) 416-461-0223
Monique Taylor (Hamilton Mountain) 905-388-9734
John Vanthof (Timiskaming–Cochrane) 705-647-5995

Ontarians Favour Maintaining Exisiting Slots At Racetracks Program, Forum Poll shows

Nearly 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  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.

Hudak and Horwath Both Slam Ontario Liberals’ New Gaming Strategy

Over the weekend, the leaders of both the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP have come out against the Ontario Liberals’ newly released gaming strategy with guns blazing.

PC Leader Tim Hudak served as Member of Provincial Parliament for the Fort Erie, ON region when the Slots at Racetracks program was introduced in the late 1990s. On Friday he told the Fort Erie Times that he strongly opposes the Liberal government’s decision to scuttle that long-standing and profitable program and that he will rally the caucus to urge the government to reconsider.

The closing of the slots at Fort Erie, Hudak said, will be a “knockout blow” to the already struggling economy of that city. Unemployment in the Niagara region at 10.2 per cent, is already the second highest in Ontario and “this is going to make it even worse,” he added.

“Wrong headed”, Says Horwath

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath pulled no punches in her denunciation of the Liberals’ new gaming direction that stands to decimate the Ontario Horse Racing Industry.

“It’s wrong headed, it’s short sighted and it makes no sense whatsoever,” she told CTV News in Windsor on Saturday.

Horwath pledged to officially question the rationale behind the Liberals’ new direction for gaming when members of provincial parliament return from March break.

“We’re going to bring it back to the legislature,” she said, “and we’re going to try to force the government to give a rationale and explanation as to why to deep six an industry that has thousands and thousands of jobs at stake.”

A recent poll has shown that Ontarians soundly reject the Ontario Liberals’ new direction for gaming.

Of the 107 seats in the Ontario Legislature, the Liberals hold 53, the PC’s 37 and the NDP 17.

The Legislature resumes sitting in Toronto on Monday, March 19th at 10:30 am and proceedings can be viewed on live webcast by clicking this link.

 

Equine Canada Speaks Out in Support of Ontario Horse Racing Industry

Equine Canada is lending its support to the Ontario horse racing industry, encouraging the Ontario Government to work to preserve the jobs and economic benefits the sector provides. Equine Canada sent a letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty and issued the following News Release:

 

Equine Canada, the national voice for the horse industry, strongly supports Ontario horse racing and encourages the province to continue its strong partnership with the industry.

For more than ten years, the OLG Slots at Racetrack Program has been a successful partnership that generates more than a billion dollars a year for the Province and enormous benefits for rural Ontario. In addition to the enormous local benefits, this relationship has also created tremendous new opportunities both at home and abroad for the Standardbred, Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse breeds.

Ontario sired and bred horses are in demand around the world, and Equine Canada has collaborated with the racing industry to encourage increased exportation and worldwide growth. Just recently, Equine Canada worked closely with the racing industry in enhancing relationships with China and Australia, two nations that have taken great interest in Ontario racing and breeding. Equine Canada will continue to encourage foreign investment in Ontario’s horse racing industry

“Canada is a great equine nation with a horse industry that is economically viable and vital,” said Mike Gallagher, President of Equine Canada. “Horse racing in Ontario, and the thousands of men and women who work in this flourishing industry, play a very important role in this national success story.

“We strongly encourage the government of Ontario to work with the industry to ensure horse racing continues to grow and prosper. The benefits of this successful partnership are felt not only in Ontario but in every part of Canada, throughout our rural and farming communities, and among the tens of thousands of men and women who work with horses or supply products and services to the horse racing industry.”
person.

Darryl Kaplan of Trot Magazine Interviews Kathleen Wynne

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