August 1, 2014

OHRIA Calls for Aggression Should Government Negotiations Fail To Provide A Better Plan For Sustainability

With only one month remaining before the industry’s share of revenue from the Slots at Racetracks Program ends, OHRIA is asking all industry participants to remain united in our strategy and messaging with Government.

With only weeks remaining, it is more important than ever for the industry to remain strong together and to remain united.  This is not the time, yet, for radical thinking.

OHRIA is cautiously optimistic that Premier Kathleen Wynne is reviewing the current plan with the intention to provide the horse racing and breeding industry with a better, more sustainable plan for the future.

However, OHRIA is asking the industry to be on the ready should we need you to stand up for our industry if these current negotiations fail to bring the results our industry needs to survive.

The OHRIA Board of Directors, in a meeting last week, approved an aggressive campaign and agreed that funds must be raised to implement it. These funds have been received and continue to flow in.

OHRIA continues to fight for the entire horse racing and breeding industry and we need the industry ready to stand up should our latest negotiations with government not yield results.

(OHRIA)

$10 Millon In Purses For Non-WEG Tracks Will Eliminate Racing Elsewhere, Burgess Tells Liberal Government

Canadian Hall of Fame member Robert Burgess has written to the Ontario Liberal Government pointing out that the OMAFRA Transition Panel’s projections of only $10 Million in purses for  racetracks beyond WEG  facilities is virtually a death sentence for racing elsewhere  in Ontario.

Burgess’ letter also states that gaming at racetrack slots facilities is traditionally up 10 to 20 percent on race days, so the government is setting itself up for a $50 Million hit to its own coffers by eliminating so many race dates.

The complete letter is available by clicking here.

OHRIA Challenges Ontario Liberal Leadership Candidates To Stand Up For Horse Racing

The Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association is calling on all Liberal Leadership candidates to take a stand now in support of Ontario’s horse racing and breeding industry. A new Premier is in the position to take immediate action to stop the needless loss of jobs that is already happening across the province.

The horse racing industry is about to enter the second horse breeding season with the uncertainty that the cancellation of the Slots at Racetracks Program brings, without any solution that ensures a meaningful opportunity for horse racing to continue in Ontario.   This leaves the province’s superior bloodstock, which is the backbone of Ontario’s horse breeding industry, at risk as breeders are dispersing their horses to other jurisdictions. If this continues, Ontario’s horse racing industry will be left without a supply of new horses that are necessary for the industry’s continued growth.

In recent days, the PCs and NDP have offered meaningful solutions to protect the 55,000 jobs related to horse racing and breeding and the more than $2 billion dollars in economic activity this industry generates in our province.

A number of leadership candidates have also spoken out in support of Ontario’s horse racing industry including Eric Hoskins, who has provided a specific commitment to review the industry within 60 days of forming government.

“March 31st is looming large in our industry, because that is the day the Slots at Racetracks Program is scheduled to end and the province has yet to provide a clear solution to allow our industry to move forward,” said Sue Leslie, President of OHRIA.   With time running out, and the government expected to change in less than a month, OHRIA is calling on Liberal Leadership candidates to signal they will continue the current Slots at Racetracks Program, while a sustainable future for the industry can be negotiated.

“When Dalton McGuinty and Dwight Duncan announced the most significant changes to the history of gaming in Ontario in more than forty years, no one knew they were planning to leave politics before seeing it through. It isn’t fair to anyone to have the current OLG modernization strategy forced on communities, while the horse racing and breeding industry is devastated, before the next Premier even has a say in what is happening,” added Leslie.

(OHRIA)

PCs would Retain Slots At Racetracks Program, Says MPP Lisa McLeod In Ottawa Sun Interview

Nepean-Carleton MPP Lisa MacLeod has gone on record stating that her party is committed to keeping the Slots-At-Racetracks program if they win the next election, according to a report in the Ottawa Sun.

MacLeod, whose riding includes Rideau Carleton Raceway, said she will fight to make sure the program remains in tact. However, she refuses to speculate on what her party would do if the horse racing industry is dismantled before an election takes place in order to avoid broken promises.

“If we were to form the government next October, and that program is cancelled with existing tracks ripped out, I obviously can’t speculate,” MacLead was quoted as saying the article. “We don’t want to pull a McGuinty.”

MacLeod also stated that her party is guaranteeing municipal referendums for cities which will host new casinos.

“If there’s a change in the party, I suspect the Tories would put the whole modernization of the industry on hold,” commented Mayor Jim Watson, who opposes the need for referendums. “They’ve said publicly they want to continue supporting the horse racing industry and go back to square one. We would have to figure out where we go from there.”

To read the Ottawa Sun article in its entirety, click here.

(Standardbred Canada)

Breeders Feel The Pain As Canadian Yearling Sale Average Drops 43%

The current malaise surrounding harness racing’s future in Ontario cast a dark cloud over the Canadian Standardbred Yearling sale at Flamboro, Sept, 15-16.

Buyers were understandably reluctant to invest heavily and breeders definitely felt the impact of their pessimism. A total of 246 head went though the ring for $2,048,950. The average of $8329 represented a hefty 43 per cent decline from last year’s average of $14,621.

Topping the sale was Warrawee Phoenix at $90,000. Dave Menary , as agent took home the Camluck half-brother to Warrawee Needy.

Breeders are hopeful that a  concrete commitment to funding the Ontario Sires Stakes and to overall racing dates will be put forth by the Ontario Government   prior to the Forest City Sale  on Oct. 13-14 in London.

Complete Sales Results from the 2012 Canadian Yearling Sale are available here for Day One and Day Two.

University of Guelph Students Now Worried About Job Prospects In Equine Industry As Slots At Racetracks Program Closes

University of Guelph students pursuing an equine specialty are becoming increasingly concerned about job prospects as fallout from the Slots at Racetracks fiasco continues to trickle down.

Uncertainty in the horse racing sector will undoubtedly lead to drastic cuts in funding for research in 2013 and Equine Guelph head Gayle Ecker is concerned about the drop in enrolment in equine courses and certificates.

Read the full story by Dave Briggs writing in The Guelph Mercury here.

OEF Takes Issue With MPP Liz Sandals’ “Insensitive” Comments About Horse Racing

The Ontario Equestrian Federation (OEF) has taken issue with MPP Liz Sandals’ insensitive comments in the Guelph Tribune on August 9, 2012 regarding the horse racing industry and the termination of the Slots at Racetracks program.

OEF President Allan Ehrlick penned an articulate response in racing’s defense which ran in the Tribune of August 30th. Read the Letter To The Editor here.

OMAFRA Transition Panel’s Interim Report Released, McMeekin Comments

The Transition Panel engaged to consult with the  industry regarding sustainability of Ontario Horse Racing following the cancellation of the Slots At Racetracks program has released its interim report.

Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ted McMeekin released the Report today, August 24, along with the following media statement:

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“On June 7th, I announced that three former cabinet ministers — Elmer Buchanan, John Snobelen and John Wilkinson — would lead consultations with the horse racing industry to help them transition from the Slots at Racetracks program to a more sustainable model.

I have received an interim report. The panel has concluded the government made the right decision to end the Slots at Racetracks program — a program that cost taxpayers $345 million a year. The panel said it would be a mistake to reinstate the program — going so far as to call it ‘poor public policy.’

The panel also advises that a viable horse racing industry requires ongoing funding to maintain attractive purses, sustain tracks, support breeding and grow a robust betting system.

Our government committed $50 million over the next three years to help transition the industry.  The panel believes that a greater investment is required.

Our government is focused on balancing its budget while protecting vital services that families rely on, like health care and education. That’s why any public transitional investment in the horse racing industry must include clear public-interest principles of fiscal accountability, transparency, a renewed focus on the consumer and a business case showing that each public dollar invested is returned to the province through tax revenues. This means the industry needs to display financial transparency.

The government has asked the panel to consult further with the industry to determine its willingness to work together in such a way that recognizes the public interest and the current fiscal climate.

I expect to receive a final report no later than the end of September.”

To read the interim report, click the following link: Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel Interim Report – August 17, 2012.

“Keep Up The Fight”, Urges Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson Regarding The Cancellation Of Slots At Racetracks Partnership

Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson has written to his constituents to provide some background on the Slots At Racetracks program and emphasize how its cancellation would be “a blow to rural Ontario.”

He acknowledges, “The spinoffs from the partnership are huge for the agricultural industry and the province.”

Wilson is obviously listening to horsepeople’s concerns and urges everyone to “keep up the fight.” His complete message appears below:

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While retrieving my voicemail one day last February I heard the familiar voice of Fred Brayford on the tape asking me to return his call. Apart from being a highly regarded Allistonian, Fred is known for his love of horses.

I returned his call right away, and within a few moments of catching up with this long-time horse owner, I was reminded by Fred of just how devastating Dalton McGuinty’s decision to end the Slots at Racetracks partnership was going to be on our communities, and rural Ontario as a whole.

The program was created back during my time as a cabinet minister. It started because we needed venues to host the government’s slot machines, and since racetracks already had gaming at their facilities, it was a perfect fit.

As the host of the government’s slot machines, racetracks received 20 percent of the profits for two reasons; we were renting their facilities and we had to compensate them for the losses they would incur from their own gaming enterprises.

It’s a common practice. You don’t go to a government office to buy a lottery ticket; you go to a convenience store that has partnered with the government to sell the tickets on their behalf.

This particular partnership saved the government a bundle because we didn’t have to build our own standalone facilities and it meant that our communities wouldn’t be littered with slot machines – gaming would stay in pre-approved areas.

The spinoffs from the partnership are huge for the agricultural industry and the province. Just ask Marv Chantler of Loretto who is one of the many people in our riding with a sign on his lawn warning people of the 60,000 jobs that could be lost with the end of the partnership.

Those jobs account for over $1.5 billion in wages, with $47,145 being the average for racetrack operations employees, and $55,035 for those working backstretches and farms that are found all over our area. Those are good salaries that pump needed funds into our local economies.

The amount that the industry spends as a whole is pegged at $2 billion per year with 80 percent of it being spent in rural, agricultural communities like ours.

The Liberals will tell you that this is simply a “secret subsidy for a few, very wealthy racetrack owners,” but that line doesn’t pass the smell test.

According to the Liberals own 2011 Budget, slot machines at racetracks were responsible, in part, for $1.5-billion of hospital operating expenses, $120-million for the Ontario Trillium Foundation, $41-million for problem gambling and related programs, $10-million for amateur sports, and $69-million for general government priorities.

One thing is for sure, the Liberals have obviously not met those who will be most affected, people like Jeff MacLaren, a jockey from Tottenham, whom I met earlier this year along with his young family at Queen’s Park.

Jeff is the farthest thing from that image of Cyril Sneer, the ruthless aardvark who acts as a greedy businessman in that old cartoon The Raccoon’s. That’s Dalton McGuinty’s vision of horse people, but it’s not the reality.

Like so many in his sector, Jeff is a guy who loves his job and works very hard through very long and difficult days in a very reputable and important industry.

Make no mistake about it this is a blow to rural Ontario.

It’s tragic that so many honest and hardworking people – who can be found in every corner of our riding – are being thrown out of the industry, especially at a time when we’ve already got 600,000 people in Ontario out of work.

I support horse racing in Ontario and my Party has done so for a very long time. I urge constituents to keep up the fight, keep writing to Dalton McGuinty and signing petitions as I will too.

J-im Wilson is the Progressive Conservative MPP for Simcoe-Grey

MPP Lisa MacLeod Invites All Horse Racing Industry Supporters to Queen’s Park on Thursday, August 30

Nepean – Carleton MPP Lisa MacLeod is inviting everyone interested in supporting the future of the Ontario horse-racing industry to come to Queen’s Park on Thursday, August 30.

Via release, MacLeod announced “On Thursday, August 30, 2012, I will use my one private members business this year to stand up for the horse racing industry and rural jobs by calling on the Auditor General to review the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s new gaming plans, including its revenue and expenditure projections, mental health and addictions impact and its effect on Ontario’s horse racing industry. I will also reiterate the Ontario PC Caucus call for a referendum to take place in any affected municipality where the OLG is proposing a new casino in order for the community to determine whether it is welcome or not.”

MacLeod went on to state that, “At a time when Ontario is lagging in economic growth, I cannot understand why the McGuinty Liberals would risk losing thousands of jobs in rural communities to gain far fewer in urban centres.”

The contents of MacLeod’s announcement appear below.


Greetings!

As a supporter of Ontario’s horse racing community, I was disappointed to learn that the McGuinty Liberal Government plans to destroy the horse racing industry, an important rural and agricultural job creator, by eliminating the Slots at Racetracks program.

I have opposed McGuinty’s plan from the beginning. At Queen’s Park I have introduced petitions (to view video click here), spoken at rallies (to view video click here), and addressed the 2012 Liberal Budget in defence of the horse racing industry (to view video click here). At home, in Nepean-Carleton, I have spoken to horsemen, the public and the media (to view Sun News interview click here, to read Standardbred Canada article click here) about the potential fallout for the Rideau Carleton Raceway and the 1,000 jobs that are at stake, in my community alone, because of the Liberal scheme.

On Thursday, August 30, 2012 I will use my one private members business this year to stand up for the horse racing industry and rural jobs by calling on the Auditor General to review the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s new gaming plans, including its revenue and expenditure projections, mental health and addictions impact and its effect on Ontario’s horse racing industry. I will also reiterate the Ontario PC Caucus call for a referendum to take place in any affected municipality where the OLG is proposing a new casino in order for the community to determine whether it is welcome or not. You are invited to join me at Queen’s Park on August 30, 2012 for the debate and light refreshments afterward.

In the week ahead I will be mounting a campaign to vigorously defend this motion and I am hopeful for your support.

At a time when Ontario is lagging in economic growth I cannot understand why the McGuinty Liberals would risk losing thousands of jobs in rural communities to gain far fewer in urban centres, while also increasing the social and economic affects casino gaming will have on our inner cities. Representing a suburban/rural riding in Ontario’s second largest City, Ottawa, has made me acutely aware how the Liberal plan will impact my constituents-rural and urban. Eliminating the Slots at Racetracks program and forcing casino’s on urban communities is a radical shift in Ontario’s gaming culture. I think Ontarians ought to have more information on how this will affect them and they also ought to have their say on whether they want new casinos in their community or not. That is what my private members motion calls for. That is why the Auditor General must review these plans and why local residents should have their say.

To join my campaign to support this legislative initiative, please feel free to email me at lisa@lisamacleod.com or call 416-325-6351.

Kindest regards,

Lisa MacLeod, MPP Nepean – Carleton

(Standardbred Canada)