March 29, 2017

Ontario Racing Releases Final Long-Term Funding Consultation Report

March 17, 2017 – After extensive industry consultations, Ontario Racing is pleased to release the Final Long-Term Funding Consultation Report. This report reflects the perspectives heard from industry stakeholders regarding a proposed long term funding framework for a sustainable future for horseracing in Ontario. This report also includes Ontario Racing’s recommendations for how the proposed funding framework can be modified and augmented, based on feedback from industry participants. The report can be viewed here.

Ontario Racing conducted consultations over a period of five months, and provided opportunities for interested parties to offer their thoughts through a variety of channels and at several different points throughout the process. A draft version of this report was also released, to ensure that industry participants had ample opportunity to participate in the consultation process.

Recommendations made by Ontario Racing reflect and evolved from key issues raised by consultation participants. These recommendations will be used to inform negotiations for a final long term funding agreement.

Ontario Racing thanks those who have participated in these consultations, and appreciates the support of the provincial government and OLG as we work to deliver a sustainable path forward for the industry.

Key facts:

  • Over 800 horse racing industry participants engaged in Ontario Racing’s consultations including all major horse person organizations and racetracks.
  • Ontario Racing offered opportunities to engage in seven in-person sessions, conducted across the province, facilitated two webinars, two leadership sessions and provided on-going opportunities for written and online feedback.
  • A long-term funding agreement will provide the horse racing industry in Ontario with the certainty they need to invest in their businesses.

Media Inquiries:
Mike Chopowick
Ontario Racing – Director of Policy, Research and Analysis

Ontario Racing Shares Facts About Horse Racing Funding

March 9, 2017 – On Wednesday, March 8, Ontario Racing issued a release which shares facts about horse racing funding.

The contents of the OR release appear below.

The Letter of Intent as a Starting Point
The recently completed industry consultation on long term funding revolved around a proposal developed by Ontario Lottery & Gaming (OLG), Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) and Ontario Racing (OR). To engage the industry in meaningful discussion, it was necessary to create an initial framework as a starting point.

The LOI dated September 19, 2016 and released on February 10, 2017 was created to be this starting point – not an ending point. The framework document dated September 19, 2016 is the only LOI and there will not be a new or final LOI. The comments and suggestions from the horse racing industry that will be contained in the Ontario Racing consultation report are important and will be used to guide the negotiation of a long-term funding agreement.

Slot Lease Revenue and Horse Racing
When the provincial government cancelled the ‘Slots at Racetracks Program’ (SARP), they severed the connection between gaming revenue and horse racing. The existing post-SARP slot leases at racetracks and the revenue they generate are related to gaming – slot revenues support the capitalization, operation and management of slot facilities. The notion that current slot lease revenues are wholly available to support or augment horse racing revenue is not accurate.

The contractual agreements between OLG and racetracks related to slot leases have been considered ‘private’ because they are commercial contracts that are gaming related and not horse racing related.

The Horse Racing Industry by the Numbers
Everyone in the horse racing industry is challenged with the availability of accurate and factual information and financial statistics. In some cases, we know exact numbers – like gross wagering revenues in Ontario and pari-mutuel tax reduction (PMTR) revenues.

Ontario Racing spearheaded the release of the Horse Racing Partnership Program (HRPP) revenues and we also know the exact amount of the Enhanced HIP revenue flowing through OMAFRA to the industry for breeders’ associations and breeder awards. What we don’t know relates to individual racetrack wagering and commissions, and race track operation costs.

We know that the $99.4 million of government support through the HRPP was allocated like this:

  • $80.8 million went to all racetracks for purses
  • $5.7 million went to breeders awards (Enhanced HIP)
  • $11.0 million went to racetrack operations – all at FAR racetracks (Fort Erie, Ajax, Rideau Carleton) and regional racetracks (Leamington, Hiawatha, Kawartha and Dresden)
  • $1.96 million went to programs and administration (2015 data) – ORC, marketing, responsible gambling etc.

 It is important to note that 80% of government funding goes directly to purses.

The Pari-Mutuel Tax Reduction
We know that the Pari-Mutuel Tax Reduction (PMTR) generated $60M in revenue in 2015-16. (A detailed breakdown of this funding can be found on the Ontario Racing website).

  • $26.0M went to the Horse Improvement Program – purses & awards (Thoroughbred & Standardbred)
  • $13.0M went to Racetrack Customer Benefits – direct marketing, player rewards, etc.
  • $10.9M went to Racetracks – racetrack operations & capital improvements
  • $6.5M went to the Ontario Racing Commission’s regulatory services
  • $3.5M went to Horsepeople Benefits and Marketing (Money received by horse people’s associations for medical, dental, life insurance, fire and transportation along with third party liability insurance while racing or qualifying at Ontario racetracks. The marketing money is being held in trust until a decision from the Horse Racing Appeal Panel on how it should be distributed is released.)

Available Information
Drawing conclusions on the financial state of the industry with estimates, incorrect information and faulty assumptions is not a responsible approach. Not all revenue and expense information is accessible to all industry stakeholders due to legal restrictions imposed on agencies, government and private businesses.

Ontario Racing will continue to champion more transparency and as much information sharing as legally possible, with all industry participants.

(Standardbred Canada)

Ontario Racing’s Strategic Direction

February 15, 2017 – Ontario Racing is pleased to share its board-approved strategic directional statements.

Ontario Racing’s vision, mission and objectives will guide its work as it continues to evolve to best represent and support the horse racing industry in Ontario.



(Ontario Racing)

2017 Standardbred Horse Improvement Program (HIP) Details

February 10, 2017 – As part of Ontario Racing’s (OR) vision to be the customer-focused leader and representative voice of a world class horse racing industry, OR has been tasked with directing breed improvement programs, including the Standardbred Improvement Program (SIP).

The 2017 Standardbred Improvement Program, in large part thanks to the recommendations of the Standardbred Advisory Group, has been approved by the Ontario Racing Board of Directors. The SIP program is one of the most successful of its kind in North America. Ontario sired and Ontario bred Standardbreds compete and win against the best in the world — with an increase in 2016 yearling sales as well as the number of mares bred to OSS stallions.

Due in part to higher than anticipated participation in the OSS program throughout 2016, the 2017 SIP program does not have the luxury of relying on the SIP Reserve. Higher than anticipated participation in both the Gold and Grassroots programs led to an increase in races and purses paid, and the full scope of the impact on the SIP Reserve was not clear until the close of the 2016 program season.

The 2017 HIP program will be fully funded at $30 million ($15 million for Standardbred). As such, the 2017 SIP was approved with a recognition of the necessity for prudent budgeting, given there is a limited SIP Reserve fund and recognizing the need to be aligned with projected revenues.

Ontario Racing benefits from the expertise of breed-focused advisory groups. The Standardbred Advisory Group is comprised of representatives of the Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association, Central Ontario Standardbred Association, Ontario Harness Horse Association, Standardbred Canada, Woodbine Entertainment Group, Grand River Raceway, Clinton Raceway, as well as members-at-large.

With the help and advice of the Standardbred Advisory Group, OR has approved a 2017 SIP budget and race schedule. The 2017 program is projected to be $16.7 million, with projected OSS purses of $12.8 million, the inclusion of the new $2 million Owners Bonus, a $1 million Ontario Bred Rewards based on OSS earnings, and $130,000 Ontario Bred Rewards based on Open Stakes Earnings.

OR would like to thank the Standardbred Advisory Group for their hard work and careful consideration in developing a 2017 plan for the continued success of the Ontario Program.

Ontario Racing is also pleased to confirm that the association will be commissioning a full, third party HIP Review in the months to follow. The purpose of the HIP Review is to measure the HIP successes against current objectives, to identify value for money, to recommend new objectives (if needed) and to establish a secure and sustainable funding framework for the Program going forward. Ontario Racing is committed to supporting world class harness racing in this province, and we are committed to continuing to advocate on your behalf to industry partners.

2017 SIP Program Details

The new $2 million Owners’ Bonus will be in place for 2017. This bonus will be calculated based on the overnight earnings in Ontario for all two- and three-year-old Ontario Sired and Ontario Bred horses. A double bonus will be paid if the horse is both Ontario Sired and Ontario Bred.

In 2017, to provide increased budget certainty, the OSS Program will switch to being an Added Money Program as far as Starting Fees are concerned. Starting Fees for a Gold event will remain at $800 and HIP will contribute $180,000 to each of the five events for age, sex and gait. This amount will be divided between the number of divisions required and the starting fees will be added to the appropriate divisions. For example, if there are two divisions, the purse for a field with 10 starters will be $98,000. The purse will fluctuate depending on the number of divisions and starters. If only one division is required, the HIP contribution will be $117,000 making the purse for a field of 10 starters $125,000.

As in previous years, no Starting Fee will be required for the Gold Super Final. The purse will be $225,000.

The Grassroots Program will continue to have six legs for each age, sex and gait. Grassroots purses will also have the Starting Fees added to the HIP contribution. Grassroots starting fees will remain at $350. For example, a field of 10 horses will compete for $19,500. The HIP portion for Grassroots divisions will be $16,000 per division, up to a maximum of $64,000 per event (four divisions) for all age, sex and gaits except for two-year-old pacers. Taking into account the breakdown of yearling nominations from 2016, the two-year-old pacers are expected to require more divisions than the trotters so the maximum HIP contribution for two-year-old pacing colts and two-year-old pacing fillies will be $80,000 (five divisions).

As usual, no starting fee will be required for the Grassroots Finals and the purse remains at $50,000.

The Semi-Finals have been eliminated for 2017.

The Ontario Sired Rewards, have been eliminated from the Program, which allows the Ontario Bred Rewards on OSS earnings to be raised to a maximum of $1 million. For budget certainty, Ontario Bred Rewards will no longer be paid as a percentage of earnings but on a pro-rata basis and based on projected purses, it is anticipated that participants will receive a percentage that is higher than that of prior years. Ontario Bred Rewards for Open Stakes have been capped at $130,000, to be paid on a pro-rata basis, with an individual cap of 20 percent of Open Stakes earnings per horse in 2017.

You can find the updated OSS race schedule here.

2017 Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) Program


  • Gold Leg with multiple divisions – $180,000 divided by number of divisions + Starting Fees ($800) added directly to purses
  • Gold Leg (One Division) – $117,000 + Starting Fees ($800) addeddirectly to purse
  • Gold Super Final – $225,000
  • Grassroots Division (six legs for each age/sex/gait) – $16,000 + Starting Fees ($350) added directly to purses.
  • Maximum HIP contribution per event – $64,000 ($80,000 for two-year-old pacers)
  • Grassroots Final – $50,000


  • Ontario Bred Rewards for OSS earnings – $1 million, paid on a pro-rata basis in January of following year
  • Ontario Bred Rewards for Open Stakes – $130,000, paid on a pro-rata basis in January of following year (individual cap of 20% per horse)
  • Owners’ Bonus – $2 million; two- and three-year-old horses that are Ontario Sired or Ontario Bred are eligible for the bonus based on their overnight earnings in Ontario. Horses that are both Ontario Sired and Ontario Bred will receive double the bonus. Paid on a pro-rata basis in January of following year

(with files from Ontario Racing)


Ontario Racing Announces Governance Changes

February 9, 2017 – Ontario Racing (OR) is pleased to announce that OR governance has continued to evolve to ensure the Board of Directors is representative of the broader horse racing industry and to ensure that OR is led by experienced and knowledgeable individuals.

With great thanks for her dedication and service, Sue Leslie has stepped down as Chair of OR’s Board. She will continue as a Director representing the Horsemen’s’ Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) and will serve on the Executive Committee as Immediate Past Chair.

Effective February 1, 2017, Leslie was succeeded by Hugh Mitchell as interim, non-voting Chair of OR’s Board of Directors. Mitchell’s experience and knowledge of Ontario’s horse racing industry, and his passion and commitment to the longevity of the industry, make him an ideal candidate for this role.

OR has added three additional Director positions to the board. One of these positions has been assigned to a regional racetrack representative and as such, OR has reached out to Kawartha Downs, Hiawatha Horse Park, Leamington Raceway and Dresden Raceway to request that they nominate representatives to be considered for this role. OR has engaged these tracks in a collaborative decision making process, and hopes to share the name of the successful candidate to this seat in the coming weeks. Two additional Director at large positions have been approved and a process to select candidates is being developed. A full list of current Directors can be found here.

In addition to these changes to board composition, OR is pleased to announce further strengthening of the governing framework of the Board of Directors. A Code of Conduct for Directors has been approved, and will guide the way that the Board of Directors conducts business and represents the industry. It can be found here.

In addition, three Board committees have been formalized including an executive committee, a governance and nominations committee and a strategic planning committee. The Board of Directors will also be supported by three advisory groups: one representing horse players and customers, one representing equine welfare and one presenting Standardbred horsepersons.

Representatives from industry associations will be invited to participate in the advisory group structure, including those not represented at the Board of Directors’ level. Through this structure, OR seeks to ensure that industry perspectives and needs are reflected and considered in the decision-making processes. The terms of reference for these groups are in the process of being developed, and will be shared once finalized. Invitations to the industry for nominees will be issued. Please visit the OR website for more details on the new advisory committee structure.

These changes reflect the commitment of OR’s Directors and staff to continued improvement and governance evolution, to best serve and represent the interests of the horse racing industry in this province.

(Ontario Racing)

Updated: 2017 OSS Schedule Released

February 10, 2017 – Ontario Racing is pleased to release the 2017 Ontario Sires Stakes race schedule.

You can view the schedule here or embedded as a PDF below.

(with files from Ontario Racing)

Today: OR To Hold Info Session And Release Letter Of Intent

February 6, 2017 – Ontario Racing has issued an invitation for participation in a long-term funding information session. The session will take place this Friday (February 10) and will include the public unveiling of the nonbinding legal document which underpins the proposed long-term funding agreement for horse racing in Ontario.

The contents of the OR release appear below.

Ontario Racing Invites You To Participate In A Long-Term Funding Information Session

As part of Ontario Racing’s long term funding industry consultations, we heard from industry participants that increased transparency and information disclosure was important and needed.

In response to industry requests, Ontario Racing has worked with our partners at Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) and the provincial government to release the nonbinding legal document which underpins the proposed long term funding agreement for horseracing in Ontario.

This Letter of Intent (LOI) will be released publicly on Friday, February 10, 2017, and an overview of this document will be provided via a webinar at 2 p.m. Ontario Racing will facilitate this conversation, and legal counsel from OLG and the Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) will be on hand to provide a detailed explanation of this agreement to interested industry participants.

You can register for the webinar here. We look forward to your participation.


What: Long-term funding information session – Letter of Intent
Date: Friday, February 10, 2017
Time: 2 p.m. EST
Registration: via gotowebinar

Ontario’s Wagering Data Released

January 16, 2017 – As part of Ontario Racing’s commitment to transparency and industry information sharing, Ontario Racing (OR) has collaborated with the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency (CPMA) to reconcile and provide a ten-year overview of Ontario related wagering — specifically wagering by Ontario customers, and wagering on Ontario product.

A positive indicator is that wagering has continued to recover since the April 1, 2014 inception of the Horse Racing Partnership Program, in large part due to the contributions of the Standardbred Alliance and Woodbine Thoroughbred. While there are many variables, including race dates, distribution channels and foreign exchange rates, it is clear that Ontario wagering is trending in a positive direction.

OR has also tabulated the gross revenues generated from the Pari-Mutuel Tax Reduction program, which allocates funds to industry initiatives and programs based on Ontario customer wagering.

The full dataset is available here as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.





(with files from Ontario Racing)

Looking Forward to 2017…

January 3, 2016 – Message from Chair Sue Leslie

As we welcome the New Year, we have cause to reflect on the year that has past. 2016 was marked by significant milestones for the horse racing industry in this province. We have been given good reason to be hopeful about a long term, sustainable future for horse racing in Ontario: the government has proposed an unprecedented long term investment in our business and there is growth in wagering for the Standardbred Alliance. As an industry, our efforts to right the ship are showing promise for success into the future.

Ontario Racing conducted consultations across the province about what that future could look like, and on behalf of our directors and staff, I would like to thank everyone who took the time to participate. While challenging at times, the passion of our industry participants was reflected as a shared commitment to finding the right path forward.

As an organization, Ontario Racing is committed to working with government and the OLG to represent the needs of our industry with vigor in 2017.  As we continue to advance our governance structure, Ontario Racing emphasizes the importance of unity and support from the industry as we negotiate and secure a new long term funding framework.

There are challenges but also great opportunities facing us in 2017. I encourage everyone to be positive, stay invested in our industry and do your part to move forward collectively on the issues that will surely shape our industry’s future. Together we will continue to rebuild and grow.


Warmest wishes a prosperous new year,
Sue Leslie
Chair – Ontario Racing

Big Task Ahead

Rob Cook

November 30, 2016 – In July, Rob Cook was named the Executive Director of Ontario Racing. TROT Magazine sat down with Cook for a one-on-one interview, to learn about his background, the role of Ontario Racing, and his view of the future of the sport in Ontario. By Darryl Kaplan

TROT: Can you tell us a little about your experience and your new role in the horse racing industry?

Rob Cook: Clearly my background is not in horse racing. I don’t profess to be an expert in horse racing. What I do have is considerable experience and knowledge in not-for-profit associations, government advocacy, marketing – the kinds of skills and experience you need to run a strong industry association. I’ve worked in two major industry associations. I’ve had the senior staff position in both those organizations – CEO and President – so that’s my background. There are lots of people that have huge experiences in this industry. I need to rely on those people as I build my knowledge of horse racing.

TROT: What are the key things you’ve learned in the past few months?

Cook: What intrigued me about this industry are the complex policy issues. Not that they’re that much more complex than other industries, but these issues are unique in the horse racing space. Clearly the first observation I made is that there is scar tissue and a focus on what has happened (in the past). It’s a huge shift. What has happened is a challenge, in changing the focus to look forwards instead of backwards. I run into that every day for sure.

TROT: What should the industry know about Ontario Racing?

Cook: Ontario Racing was formed on the notion that the industry needs a strong industry association to speak to government. Government has supported that. OR has been in operation for the past eight months. We’ve recently been using the OHRIA (Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association) Board in an advisory capacity and the decision was made for them, on an interim basis, to officially be the Ontario Racing Board. We recognize that’s an interim step. OHRIA isn’t necessarily 100% representative of the industry today, so we also have a governance group that has been charged with developing a new governance structure for the Board and ensuring that there is complete representation of the industry. The expectation is that there will be a new structure by the end of 2016/beginning of 2017 – at the latest.

TROT: How do you address a general feeling from some groups who may feel that this group doesn’t represent them. How do you bring them in?

Cook: If that was easy, there are many other things I could or would do. That’s not an easy challenge. There’s lots of organization in this space and there are many individual interests. We have challenges related to horsemen’s representation on the standardbred side. All we can do is make sure that OR has a structure that provides a conduit for everyone in the industry and hopefully OR will represent the views of everyone. But it’s always going to be hard – we’ll have to operate based on consensus.

TROT: What about some more divisive issues like what tracks will race. Will OR make recommendations on those issues?

Cook: The structure that is envisioned is for post 2021, and possibly earlier if it’s the wish of the industry – the concept when it’s in place would be to have one racing alliance that includes all tracks. The government will funnel its funding support through one transfer payment to that alliance. That alliance will make decisions. There will be linkages between public money and what the return is – employment return, wagering return and more sustainability. That puts decisions in the hands of the industry and it starts to put a more sustainable business case to how you make investment.

The alliance would develop a program on what racing would look like, where it happens, purse levels and dates. That would be approved by the Board of Directors of the alliance. There are tough decisions to make there. That report goes to the Ontario Racing Board of Directors to provide an approval process. So the presumption is if OR is concerned with how money is allocated, there would be some mechanism for dealing with that. If OR believes that proposal is in the best interests of the industry, it would approve it and it would go on to OLG, which would have an approval process, and ultimately to AGCO which has the regulatory oversight. There’s lot of stop points to have checks and balances.

TROT: There was a recent announcement of a new horsemen’s alliance group. Are you concerned at all that there will be other groups that will go directly to government and give them different messages than the one being given by OR?

Cook: That’s the prerogative of other groups to do that. If they feel they can’t get their message through OR. It will be up to government to whether they listen to other groups or not. Am I concerned about it? If there’s not a consistent message from the industry, that’s bad for the industry.

Where there are other groups and other interests, we want to align together as best we can to present a common message. OR is not on an empire building exercise to try to consolidate the industry under our wing. We need to make sure we’re working on a common message because that’s the only way we give the industry the strength it needs to push back on government.

TROT: How about concerns that OR may be too close to government? If issues come up where the industry feels they really need to take a stand with government, is OR independent enough to do that?

Cook: I can understand where people may have that view looking outside-in because we have spent a lot of time working with government to try to get a long term funding arrangement, so we can consult with the industry. So in some ways to our detriment, we’ve spent a lot of time looking at government and not at the industry but I expect that page to turn once we’ve started moving forward, looking at what we really need to do. Clearly, OR’s vision is that we’re the representative of the industry [in Ontario] and if that means taking hard positions with government in the interests of the industry, that will happen. That needs to be tempered that we take responsible, realistic approaches. We’ve already talked to the opposition. People may see government as too close, but I don’t think that’s the case.

TROT: When it comes to the plan being proposed to the industry, is the plan set, and the consultation is about tweaking the plan, or is the slate open for something different if you heard opposition?

Cook: We want to hear from the industry – every point of view. If people don’t think this is the right plan, we want to hear that. If this is not the plan, we want to hear other options. It’s not a done deal. It needs to be negotiated. There are lots of question marks and even in the early part of consultation there are areas that are already on the table.

TROT: What is Woodbine Entertainment Group’s role in this proposal, and what should it be going forward?

Cook: I know there are lots of opinions about WEG but I think when you look at the industry it’s pretty hard to imagine the industry operating without the facilities that WEG operates. WEG has provided a key management role in the Standardbred Alliance. They are the big player in the game and that sometimes makes people uncomfortable. What we’ve tried to do is develop something where we can leverage the expertise, knowledge and resources of WEG for the betterment of everybody and have the checks and balances to make sure that’s always done for the best interests of everyone. WEG does not have the majority of directors so there are other people that will have decision making in the alliance. There are counterbalances and checks in place.

Rob Cook with Standardbred Canada President & CEO Dan Gall

TROT: What’s your feeling about government and how they see horse racing in Ontario, from the very top down?

Cook: People in government recognize the horse racing file as a very difficult file. That’s probably based on the history of it, the Slots at Racetracks program, and the fallout from it. What we have seen is a genuine interest and commitment at the political level of the government to be helpful. People can blame the government for being where we are today but I think there is a legitimate political commitment to support the industry. It also exists on the opposition side – probably both parties.

TROT: The plan that the industry is currently being consulted on details a government funding extension in Ontario for 17 years beyond 2021, but the structure is divided into separate parts?

Cook: It’s really structured as seven years guaranteed and the option for two, five-year renewable terms, and the five-year terms are based on performance indicators. Has the money that’s been invested for seven years got us further ahead for a sustainable industry? Seven years is committed and they would look at measures and indicators and see if there is growth, is wagering coming up, is the industry doing better, and if so, they would renew for another five. It’s metric performance-based thinking.

TROT: Where does OMAFRA (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs) fit in?

Cook: They have an interest in horse racing. The Minister is interested. As a Ministry, they do provide funding for the enhanced Horse Improvement Program (HIP). It wasn’t until fairly recently that the transfer payment agreements with OMAFRA, to support the enhanced HIP program, were extended from 2019 to 2021. We are trying to get confirmation of enhanced HIP from 2021 forward. People will clearly recognize that the amount of money is $93.4 million. What is absent from that is the current seven odd million for enhanced HIP. With the enhanced HIP it’s $100 million, not 93. We don’t know where the ministry is on enhanced HIP. Our hope is that we will be able to receive some kind of commitment through negotiation that OMAFRA is still engaged in supplying those dollars through a different pool of money, to support those activities. They have an interest in the rural and economic development impact of the industry.

To be honest the very first discussion we had around the long term funding arrangement, it was the first question, what about enhanced HIP – 2021 and beyond, because it’s critical to breeders. We didn’t have an answer. We still don’t have an answer. Everybody including government is crystal clear that breeding and investment cycles are four to five years and people need to make decisions based on that.

TROT: What’s been your impression of the everyday horseperson?

Cook: It’s easy to say – It’s an industry full of hardworking people and people that have a genuine interest in success of their own business and of the industry. I have been in the backstretch, in paddocks, at as many racetracks as possible, I’ve visited breeders. I’ve tried to reach out. I’ve said at the start that I don’t know a lot about horse racing but that’s not the long term objective. I need to know as much as I can as quick as I can. It’s a good industry full of good people. Lots of people have opinions and some of them aren’t always positive, but that’s ok. You need to hear those just as much as you need to hear others.

TROT: What should OLG integration mean to the industry? Are new gaming products a part of it?

Cook: Our view is that at some point, whether it be betting at corner stores, historical horse racing, or other products – which are things being talked about right now again – those are extra revenue sources that need to come to bear for horse racing to be successful in the long run. There is dialogue within OR on what types of products are needed, and discussion with OLG about how we can move toward some of these products.

A key point is that this funding agreement, and the money we’re talking about, is not enough to keep the industry sustained. We are going to focus back on things like product development with OLG. Clearly we have to find other ways to grow wagering and other products that can bring sustainability to the industry. The industry needs to be more self sustaining.

TROT: Is there any other message that you want the industry to know about OR?

Cook: My goal is that the industry sees Ontario Racing as their champion. That doesn’t mean everybody is always going to be in the same place and on the same wavelength, but generally the success of representing the industry means that OR has to have that role, and people have to see that role. If we don’t do it, that’s a problem, but if people don’t see OR as valuable, that’s a problem as well. There’s work to do there. I know that, as do my staff and the Board at OR. Hopefully at the end of these consultations we can move from a point of frustration to a sense of what they like and what they don’t like. Clearly Ontario Racing has said to government that we need the consultation results. This next step is negotiating an agreement.