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Jack Darling's Blog


Plans To Save Racing

Published: June 26, 2012 10:55 pm ET

Last Comment: July 6, 2012 1:11 pm ET | 42 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

The Ontario government has passed their budget and have remained steadfast in their position that the slots at racetracks program as it now exists is over as of March 31. Faced with the facts as they stand right now, we must present a well thought out, common sense plan to the government that will preserve the horse racing industry in Ontario.

I believe that over the last few months we as a group led by OHRIA have made our case very well to the government as to the magnitude and importance of our industry. Anna Meyers' submission on behalf of SBOA was particularly thorough and compelling. Recently, Woodbine's CEO Nick Eaves released an excellent statement explaining the merits of the partnership between WEG and OLG and the history behind it. He also laid it on the line how devastating it would be for our industry unless a new arrangement is made. Also, former Liberal MP Dennis Mills is spearheading a fantastic campaign through RACING FUTURE that is getting our message out to the public and the government. I am certain that this government is getting the message that they have underestimated the importance of the horse racing industry in Ontario and realize that mistakes have been made. I have to believe that there is a desire in the government to do something substantial to preserve the industry.

Industry groups are now meeting with a three-member panel appointed by the government to discuss how government funds should be used. Meeting with this panel along with Mr. Sadinsky's efforts to talk with government officials is our best opportunity to put forth a plan to save the industry. Included here are two proposals, one by Brian Webster regarding the entire industry and one by Dave Briggs dealing with breeders and the OSS. Both plans are impressive and well thought out and I think in combination would make an excellent package to put forth to the government. Of course any proposals should be presented by OHRIA as they represent our entire industry. These proposals will be sent to OHRIA for their consideration and I urge anyone else that has ideas to do the same.

A Plan For The Future For Ontario Harness Racing - by Brian Webster

After speaking to hundreds of concerned people in the Standardbred industry over the past few months it is time to deal with what is possible and come up with specific ideas for moving forward.

This plan is simple in its concept but realistic. Most of us have accepted that we will have a smaller, changed industry going forward. The starting point for the future is to determine which tracks will continue to hold races (with comparable purses to the present) past March of next year. Because of historical ties, agricultural components and tax issues we should be able to count on six tracks; namely, Clinton, Grand River, Hanover, Mohawk, Western Fair And Woodbine that intend to race. If there were other for profit tracks who would join this group that would be great, all they would have to do is commit to support future racing at a level comparable to what we have now.

The one parameter that must be in place in order to continue is that the aforementioned tracks would need to be confirmed by OLG as the designated gaming operation for their respective zone. Once this is in place each track organization would have to negotiate a realistic agreement for revenue sharing with OLG.

Would such a plan be acceptable to the people who own, train and race? Yes, most everyone is ready for a solution to this debacle to be considered and this plan would conceptually be accepted by a majority of participants. A scenario where we would have six tracks including our flagship pair conducting races with comparable purses to the level we now have would be a workable base. In New York there are seven tracks, in Pennsylvania there are three, in Ohio there are four. All trainers, drivers and owners presently racing now would be eligible to race in this new dynamic.

Where do the breeders fit in? The OSS is the jewel in our crown. As long as it can be funded in a similar manner as now exists the majority of breeders will be supportive. The program will need to be reconfigured with only six tracks participating but that can be easily done.

Here are the main obstacles to overcome:

1. The tracks must be able to negotiate a satisfactory agreement with OLG. If this can't be done it is over. After turning our customers from horse players to machine players there is no track that can survive at a decent level without slots. Harness racing will survive but as a hobby not a business.

2. It will take time for the tracks to finalize an agreement with OLG but the breeders cannot wait. Their business involves long term planning, therefore, significant funds will be required starting in 2013 in order to have stability as the plan comes together.

Stable funding for Ontario Sires Stakes program the way to go - Dave Briggs, April 25, 2012

In exchange for supporting the Liberals’ provincial budget, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath allegedly received a commitment for some “transitional aid” for Ontario’s beleaguered horse racing industry which considers Guelph its nucleus. Details are scarce, but indications are a one-time payment may, eventually, be headed to the industry to offset the financial devastation caused by the Liberals’ decision to end the slots-at-racetracks program in March of next year.

I have an idea how best that money could be spent, but first some background.

The Liberals have faced withering criticism from mainstream media outlets across the province for an obvious ignorance of how the horse racing industry works, how much it contributes to the economy as Ontario’s second largest agricultural sector (some $2 billion a year) and how many people it employs (60,000).

Particularly troubling is the immediate, crippling impact that cancelling the slot deal has had on the province’s horse breeders. A minimum of three years is needed for a breeder to see a return on investment. An uncertain future beyond March of next year has caused the value of Ontario-bred horses to plummet and has decreased the number of horses to be bred for future years.

Yet, in light of a vague promise to help the industry, there’s a way the Liberals can save some face after bungling the horse racing file. In turn the industry, and those with the biggest investment in it, can avoid extinction.

Please, let’s not try to retrain racing’s largely unskilled labour force through Ontario Works or some other body yet to be created. That’s a waste of time and money. Instead, the best way to help the most people in the industry is to use much of the “transition aid” to secure long-term, stable funding for the Ontario Sires Stakes program which has existed for 38 years.

The program has elevated the Ontario-bred harness horse to world-class status. Estimates are that about half of the program’s $20 million in annual funding comes from slot machine revenue (the other half, essentially, comes from betting on horse racing).

That means in a year’s time, once the government turns off the slot machine tap, there’s likely to be approximately a $10-million shortfall in funding for the Sires Stakes to keep it near its current level of funding. Currently, horse racing’s 20 per cent share of slot machine revenue amounts to about $345 million a year. For less than half of that, a one-time payment of $150 million could, essentially, fund the Sires Stakes program to the tune of $25 million annually for a decade. An ironclad 10-year agreement, with no out clauses, would provide considerable stability to a labour-intensive industry.

While $150 million is a lot of money, it basically would be the equivalent of stretching the industry’s share of slot revenue six months longer than planned. That would preserve the value of Ontario-bred horses already produced but yet to sell as yearlings this fall, helping breeders to avoid taking a bath at the auctions. It would also mean breeders that upgraded stock in recent years would be able to recoup at least some of that investment. For those who do the racing, it would keep horses in the barn and people working.

In exchange for that one-time aid package, the industry should be required to commit to a concrete plan for funding the Sires Stakes after the aid has dried up in order to preserve the sport and the Ontario breed beyond the next decade.

The sad reality is that without slots there will be fewer Ontario racetracks, fewer race dates and, likely, lower overnight purses, which will drive many of the smallest operations out of the business. Yet, strong funding for the Ontario Sires Stakes would keep a proud, thriving business alive and allow the Liberals to claim it drove the agricultural economy at home and tightened racing’s belt without asphyxiating the game.

It’s the least they could do.

The most urgent issue right now is to secure funding for the OSS before the yearling sales start this fall. Without this, the sales will be a disaster with devastating financial consequences for the breeders and the entire horse racing industry. Previous governments in Ontario as well as many states south of the border have seen the wisdom in promoting sires stakes programs. We have to re-educate our government about the benefits of having a strong program including the large number of jobs it creates along with the tremendous economic effect it has.

It is the nature of our business that any money that is earned is put right back into the economy which is what this province needs. Dave's 10 year plan would be great as it would allow everyone to make long range commitments which is always stimulative to the economy but we will have to see what financial commitments this government is willing to make. Even a five year plan that could be renewed would save the industry and give breeders and racing participants time to adjust to a smaller industry. One thing that we all have to remember is that once the dust settles we are going to have a much smaller industry and we will have to adjust to that.

A big problem has been that some racetrack owners [and we all know who they are] have taken in huge amounts of money from the slots at racetracks program and have put almost nothing back into the racetrack facilities or promotions. To me, this has been the one big failing of the slots at racetracks program. There is no doubt that horse racing needed some adjustments and improvements but I just can't believe that a rational government would be willing to destroy it instead of improving it. Hopefully after having informative face to face talks with government leaders that understand the racing business we can come out of this in reasonable shape.


July 6, 2012 - 1:11 pmI followed Steve Waldman's

Carolyn Rae SAID...

I followed Steve Waldman's suggestion and wrote the Ontario Ombudsman this week. In my online submission, I included links to several articles on this website including the link to the article named, OLG's most successful partnership. In this article is included the graphs which clearly show the revenue from the Slots-at-Racetracks partnership to be the most successful of all the OLG's revenue from its charities, lotteries and Provincially owned Casinos. I asked for an investigation into the OLG, since the end to it's most successful partnership does not make any economical sense whatsoever.
Today I received a call from the Ontario Ombudsman's office and spoke at great length with a representative who was gathering information to determine whether they had enough just cause for an investigation. She gave me her name, phone number and extension to contact her if I had any more information I wished to contribute, or had any questions.

So people, please, do as Steve suggested, and contact the Ontario Ombudsman. You can submit your complaint from the website Steve has included in his correspondence, or you can e-mail them at [email protected]. They are listening.

July 2, 2012 - 9:06 pmI rest my case on the

Bert Convay SAID...

I rest my case on the industry in Ontario slitting their own wrists! Here it is Monday night...OSS Grassroots trotters at Grand River Raceway, and what am I watching on HPI? Mohawk(of course), Hastings(at least it's Canadian), Northfield Park(US), Mountaineer(US) and Australia! No Grand River!
Good luck everyone, I think the guys calling the shots for your industry are just as inept as the ones the people on here point their fingers at that are running the Province!

July 2, 2012 - 11:40 amSaving the industry will

Saving the industry will require us to implement many new ideas in order to compete with the casinos and online gaming that were not around years ago. Since the slot revenue started rolling the industry has failed to grow the sport in manner that would keep the people coming back.
I don't have all the answers but I believe the majority of "gamblers" want a chance at a big jackpot. Let's take $0.01 from every bet nationwide and put it in a carryover pot that rewards one lucky ticket at random (a winning or losing bet) with the money. As the pot grows all you have to do is bet on any race in Canada to have a shot at it.
This approach may seem like a novelty but we better learn and learn quickly to offer something different. Casinos and online gambling sites are always looking for new ways to get you to spend your money. Our failure to do the same will mean the end to the sport as we know it.

Jeff Kowalsky

July 2, 2012 - 10:32 amI agree with the plan to stop

I agree with the plan to stop the slots now and cut off the revenue to the OLG, however, the track operators are busy banking as much as they can before it's gone. I have yet to hear one track operator comment on this situation, count them out. If they can get a deal to host the slots and NOT have to pay or share with the horsemen what do think they will do.
Begging the government for a handout puts us in a position we have never been in and justifies their position that slots is a subsidy.

OLG is a corporation and does have a monopoly. Are there not competition laws in Ontario?
Is gambling legal in Ontario?
Is the OLG going to enter into agreements with private, and most likely American individuals or corporations? And have they in the past?
Did the track operators have a contract or just a letter of intent?
Is ANY political party goiong to do anything?
Are there any lawyers out there looking for work?
Is all the information available and being presented to all interested parties in keeping with natural justice?
Does negotiating with the government produce results? And are they fair and balanced?

What if the track operators/owners and horsemen formed a corporation? Would they have the same rights as ANY other corporation? Not to mention leverage.
What if horsemen stopped racing and instead protested in front of the tracks, (good luck with that one) putting pressure on the track operators.
Or breeders pulled all their horses from the sales.(They are taking a beating this year anyway)

What is clear, is horesmen have NO leverage, no bargaining chips, once we solve that problem we may be well on our way to a sustainable future.

July 1, 2012 - 5:45 pmI agree with Ivan Gallant.WEG

I agree with Ivan Gallant.WEG with 3000 plus slots has enough clout to put the pressure on the OLG. We are 4 months down the line and what have we achieved so far. NOTHING. We have tried being nice, sending letters and e-mails, attending meetings with MPPs with no result. As I understand it, each track has a seperate agrement with the OLG. Somehow we need to get them combined into one large group , that can give the OLG an ultimatum. Restore the original agreement till 2015 or get the machines out by the end of July. 8 months till next March. Be sure the OLG won't be sitting back wondering what will happen.They are probably reorganising their slot parlours. We could get to March and think that some tracks will be safe ,only to find that the OLG have made other arrangements.No slot income for 8 months works out at about 750 million dollars lost.

July 1, 2012 - 3:52 pmTo differentiate race track

Cecil Cook SAID...

To differentiate race track wagering from casino gambling, I suggest incorporating the Responsible Gambling Council’s tips for safer gambling into each racing programme. These tips include:

Don’t think of gambling as a way to make money.
Always gamble with money that you can afford to lose.
Set a money limit.
Set a time limit.
Never chase losses.
Don’t gamble when you are depressed or upset.
Balance gambling with other activities.

We don’t really want to make a living off people’s grocery money, and we should say so up front.

July 1, 2012 - 11:33 amI think you better listen to

Dave Webber SAID...

I think you better listen to Richard lavigne. What bothers me about standardbred racing is it used to be the poor man's sport of kings, but now all the real good horses seem to end up in the hands of the same people. Get back to the grassroots (fairgrounds and fall fairs to bolster new growth). How about somehow building a harness track closer to public transit in the GTA. The Old Greenwood used to pile fans off of the streetcars. Too many people in this sport aren't happy just making a living, they want to make a killing. Why not go back when racing was almost a hobby. I owned horses back then and was quite happy to break even. Go back to trainer/driver situations. Why not make HPItv free and limit U.S. exposure. My heart tells me too many people got too greedy when the slot money poured in. Well get used to it now it's gone. Get back to when owning horses was a social and fun event.

July 1, 2012 - 12:42 amTake a look at what the

Take a look at what the "First nations" do when the government or anyone else tries to "run over them". I.E. Closing Bridges, Closing Highways, and Caledonia. They get results. They have learned from brutal experience what negotiation with Government leads to. Now the problem is the racing community even though they will lose their livelihood do not have the intestinal fortitude to do what is required.

June 30, 2012 - 8:45 pmFor starters, the racetracks

Bert Convay SAID...

For starters, the racetracks have to get in line with the times and reduce the takeout to at least 15% if not 10! Secondly, with the state of racing in Canada in particular Ontario...HPI should be reducing the number of international tracks offered and start promoting, even pushing the Canadian tracks! There is no reason for the Flamboro's, Rideau's, Georgians etc to be getting "bumped" for an American or even Australian B thoroughbreds track! If you can get the handles least you have a fighting chance! As it is now with all the tracks offered...there is NO CHANCE! Start helping yourselves!!!!

June 30, 2012 - 5:26 pmOk Jim, How about a National

Ok Jim,

How about a National "Back to the Races Day" where everyone goes to their local track, bets horses & spends money on food while they are there....I hear a lot of people complain, but these same people don't spend a dime at the track when they go & race...

June 30, 2012 - 3:49 pmJack is right in that the

Jack is right in that the racing community must come up with a plan for racing without slots, but it mast go further. There needs to be analysis of the impact on government revenues and economic effacts compared to the current situation, and also a comparison to the planned revenue that the OLGC is banking on. In other words prove to the goverment that their plan is not going to have the beneficial impact on revenue that they think.

June 30, 2012 - 3:19 pmI'd love to see racetracks

Mike Munoz SAID...

I'd love to see racetracks build better relationships with the lottery corporations and include a lottery type wager but ultimately to have monitors at every lotto kiosk showing live racing from that provinces racetrack and being able to wager right there. The lottery would take a large cut to do something like this but it would be worth it to bring horse racing mainstream and in the publics eye.

June 30, 2012 - 1:30 pmPlease read the article

Ken Walker SAID...

Please read the article Charlie and my comments there. I believe if you follow what he said and publicise it and get the general population on board they will reverse their decision. Work on an agreement where healthcare gets a specific per centage of the take directly and I believe you will have a reversal of this decision. Make this proposal public and I believe you will have the general public on your side and the Liberals will have no choice. Too bad the horsemen did not listen to Charlie way back when and you might not be in this situation.

June 30, 2012 - 12:42 pmFor months the industry has

Brian Smith SAID...

For months the industry has tried to negotiate & lobby the government with no success. The government just talks and stonewalls the industry. They do this to get what they want which is TIME & MONEY. They need time to put their plans in place and are still raking the money from the SAR program.
The first thing the industry has to do is stop the flow of money to the government.
CLOSE THE SLOTS AT RACETRACKS at the 5 largest slots ( Woodbine,Mohawk, etc) , & Cut the purses to what they would be if they only where based on the mutual handles at each track. Do it NOW. This will get the governments attention in a hurry. It will show the public, horsemen & government what the industry will look like after the SAR program is gone along with the economic impact this will have on Ontario.
If you wait it’s too late.
This action will be the main stream & front page news the industry requires bringing this issue to the attention of the voting public. When the public is informed & educated about the impact that the SAR program has on the economy they will be asking questions and putting pressure on the government to do the correct thing and keep the SAR program. This will also bring up the issue of raising taxes to replace the lost income from the closed slots which won’t go over good with the voting public knowing the government has allowed this to happen.
At this point the government will be trying to explain their actions to the public and more than happy to sit down & negotiate a fair & reasonable solution for the industry going forward.
Only allow the slots to reopen after a proper agreement is in place for the entire industry.
If they don’t sit down at this point then it’s too late for the industry.

June 30, 2012 - 11:00 amBang on James Carr. MARKET


Bang on James Carr. MARKET YOUR PRODUCT!!!!!!! Years ago everyone knew the names of the famous horses, drivers, jockeys whether or not the were regular race goers. Where do you think the bettors came from in the first place? Make the public want to come out and see your Canadian horse racing heroes. If you build it - they will come. If they come - they will bet. You have a great product - all you have to do is make people want to participate through advertising and public relations.

June 30, 2012 - 10:33 amTo touch base on what Mike

John Carter SAID...

To touch base on what Mike Wilson has said about the failure of the industry to embrace and take advantage of racing on tv and the internet here is another classic example of failure. Tonight at pocono downs there is 3 major harness racing finals on. You cannot watch them on the internet unless you have an account with them so you can sign on and of course if you are from canada and many other jurisdictions you can't open an account with them.

I also have hpi-tv but in there infinite wisdom they are not showing these 3 races at least that is what they told me when i called them yesterday. Now what in the heck is a matter with the people running this industry. You have 3 major races and they are going out of there way to block people from watching it.

I no longer play the races but i still enjoy watching the stake races but i will never play the races again until the takeout issue is addressed. Until the race game gets competitive with other forms of gambling attendance and handle will continue to plummet. The only chance they have to get healthy again is to be competitive with there competition meaning a 10% takeout rate in all pools and then take full advantage of the internet and tv and grow and expand there gambling base.

June 30, 2012 - 9:57 amEveryone has an idea and a

James Carr SAID...

Everyone has an idea and a lot are very good ideas but I think we have to start by having participants at the track rather than having it look like a ghost town.

June 30, 2012 - 8:11 amWe have to fight fire with

jeff hall SAID...

We have to fight fire with fire make all the plans you want their not going to listen or help. How do we make the OLG listen, we organize all three breeds for example each take a casino and put up information lines causing delays and inconvenience for patrons redirecting them to support only racinos. By hurting the olgs bottom line and sending a message to any possible major casino operator that ontario is not going to be a good investment because you have thousands of angry horse people who will not take this lying down. This is how to get them to the table to deal. JMO

June 29, 2012 - 2:55 pmTime for a reasonable rake.

Will Boggs SAID...

Time for a reasonable rake. Secure that and the game thrives. It's the most exciting 2 minutes in sports...and that's before the window closes!

Seriously, fix the rake and you have a winner.

June 29, 2012 - 1:54 pmThe day horsemen pull their

The day horsemen pull their collective heads out of the trough will come. It will be that "shocker" of a morning sometime in March '13 when, while reading the newest condition sheet, they half choke and head back in to see the race secretary proclaiming " Oh you must have typed this up wrong!"

I can't help but be cynical.
We shouldn't be racing - we should be "making noise"

June 29, 2012 - 12:47 amWho really owns the gambler's

Joy Toole SAID...

Who really owns the gambler's money? Wasn't the lottery first introduced for the development of sport and recreation. How ironic that is should be the death of it.

June 28, 2012 - 8:25 pmI am sure my plan will not be

Mike Adams SAID...

I am sure my plan will not be popular with many who frequent this site but given the 2011 wagering levels on horse racing in Ontario I see no other viable solution.

Ontario in order to survive needs to move to a far leaner structure that will support the $649 million that was wagered on Thoroughbred racing and the $348 million that was wagered on Harness racing in 2011.

This means racing at only 4 tracks after March 2013.
Harness Tracks:
1 – Western Ontario (Western Fair)
1 – Toronto (Woodbine)
1 – Eastern Ontario (Rideau Carleton)

Thoroughbred Tracks:
1 – Woodbine

Key Points:

Racing needs to lobby the Ontario Government to allow some form of Slot revenue sharing for these 4 tracks only. Each would keep their current slot parlors and would have a reduced revenue share maybe 10% instead or the current 20%. This would be a good compromise and something the Government could support if there was a time limit associated. Say a 10 year agreement.

There would be no overlapping harness dates between more than 2 tracks. So on a Saturday night only 2 tracks could race. The 3rd would race in the afternoon or on another dark night to ensure maximum wagering. Post times would also be coordinated so that no race would go off at the same time again ensuring maximum revenue from wagering.

Transitional Government Funding would be used in 3 areas.
1. A breeders award fund would be setup to help with Ontario Breeding
2. A Ontario Owned program would be set up to give out award to Ontario owned winning horses
3. A marketing fund would be set up to attract new fans. This would primarily be targeted to the US market. The real money for wagering is in the US. The Thoroughbred handle in Ontario has not declined since 1999 because of the jump in US betting on Woodbine Thoroughbreds. Ontario racing needs to expand further into the US marketing to further increase handle.

Takeout needs to be lowered to make these 4 tracks the most player friendly tracks in North America. 10-12% on WPS and 12%-15% on exotics. This needs to be marketed to everyone North America wide.

Each track needs to have an onsite classroom – welcome center that is designed for new fans. The center is manned with special tellers and staff to help educate the newcomers on racing. The tracks will also have staff roaming the building in order to educate new fans.

Every Saturday a national $1 pick six needs to be implemented that is cross breed oriented. 3 Harness Races and 3 Thoroughbred races with access to be able to play the bet at any OLG terminal in Ontario. The takeout needs to be super low. Max 5% with a carryover if there isn’t a sole winner. This will take weeks sometime months to hit and the payoffs will grow until it’s the hottest bet in North America.

The goal would be to raise handle to $500 Million on harness and $800 Million on Thoroughbred and set up the sport to grow to a sustainable level that could support itself without any additional revenue from casino gaming.

I would love to see Ontario keep some more track racing but I just don’t see more than 4 being able to support racing at the current revenue levels.

Let me know what you think. It's not going to be popular but it's what's needed to create a healthy self sustaining industry.

Mike Adams

June 28, 2012 - 5:17 pmI'm just a Horse Racing fan

Randy Young SAID...

I'm just a Horse Racing fan and don't profess to understand the intricacies of breeding and horse racing. The 2 proposals put forth appear to have significant merit. I would only hope, regardless of what stance the Horse Racing Industry takes going forward, that they have an aggressive backup plan that involves going toe to toe with the Liberal Government (with legal action if neccessary) in order to preserve as many tracks and as many jobs as possible.
Unfortunately your dealing with politicians and public & private business leaders whose integrity is questionable at best.
There have been several individuals and associations that have put forth compelling arguements as to why the cancellation of the Slots at Race Tracks Partnership is a VERY BAD decision. The response from our Liberal Government has been consistantly negative .... and at times rude and distasteful.

June 28, 2012 - 4:15 pmThe mobilization of all

Marc Hanover SAID...

The mobilization of all aspects of the horse industry in response to the Ontario government’s strange decision to willingly, and needlessly, decimate Canadian horseracing via next year’s proposed termination of slot revenue to racing has been impressive and intense. As an American that has had quite significant involvement in Ontario racing, I have been impressed with the resolve evident throughout the Ontario horse industry in combating this situation. For local horsemen, of course, there will be no escaping the consequences should the government proceed as it desires. As an American, although it may seem we can just run and hide, the consequences of racing’s loss here would follow us across the border. Make no mistake about it; this is every North American horseman’s fight. If government can successfully abrogate its contract with horseman in an arbitrary and devastating manner here in Ontario, how long will it be until cash strapped governors in New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania follow suit, emboldened by the Ontario model.

With this in mind, Marc and I (Enviro Stables Ltd) wished to suggest that the one tact that Ontario horsemen may yet have available in their arsenal is the broadening of this fight and issue into a ‘non-horse’ fight, into a call to arms for all Canadians who – if this fight is lost – may be the next to suffer from the type of arrogant, insensitive, and, perhaps, illegal act of a government that can so carelessly discard the livelihoods and underlying contractual responsibilities of tens of thousands of Canadians. I have to assume that the liberals have already written off the votes of horse industry participants, therefore the only threat or leverage that the industry really has is to broaden the fight so that the liberals fear a broader political cost. With this in mind, we suggest that all industry participants proactively work with their local tracks to effectuate a contemporaneous 2-3 hour voluntary closure of all businesses within a specified radius of each track in support of Ontario horseman in their fight against the improper manner of the government’s implementation of their casino vision. Success in this effort would be sure to garner nationwide television coverage, and it would have to make the government hesitate and reevaluate the extent of political damage it really wants to create. Every business within 10 kilometers of a track, all the local real estate, inextricably has their value tied to racing. The government needs to see homeowners, doctors, lawyers, store owners, hotel operators, etc. will hold the liberal government responsible for the consequences of the OLG slot/casino decision. The government needs to hear from non-horse people that they do not like the inhumanity of the manner in which the government is seeking to change the slot landscape. New casinos will take 3-5 years to get started, why shut down racetracks now – costing tens of thousands of direct jobs and innumerable indirect ones – long before the new casino vision can be implemented? The importance of showing that average Canadians stand with racing in opposing the OLG plan is crucial. And if everyone in the industry approached businesses local to tracks with a coordinated sympathy closure plan, this is an approach that could really work and escalate the visibility of the government’s plan and the dangers of implementing it.

Gordon L Banks
Marc J Hanover

June 28, 2012 - 1:14 pmA comprehnsive statement in

A comprehnsive statement in dollars that shows clearly the impact of the slot program with and without it including employment, taxes etc has not been done and this is needed. An example is that sboa has the data but did not crunch any numbers for their submision. This is needed. We can do this in modules and then roll it up for the total industry.

If we do not have the expertise then get it such as accounting and economic expertise.

Tom Rasmussen

June 28, 2012 - 12:47 pmYes this may be a start but

Yes this may be a start but at the same time pressure needs to be put on. We all have figured out that there is another agenda by both the Liberal Government,the OLG and its people, as well as there friends who will reap the benefits in years to come.
So I also suggest while other ideas and proposals are being worked on ,get in touch with the Ontario Ombudsman as already suggested and have a complete investigation into this and try to put pressue on the government. Why the government would give up the most profitable casinos (slots at racetracks), the misinformation to the public calling it a 'subsidy",the foreign investment being thrown out of Ontario, the tax money going to be lost to the province which the industry brings in, the 60000 jobs at stake, the intoduction of VLT in bingo halls that a certain individual has been buying up over the last few years, the selling out to American and foreign companies potential casino profits for this province etc etc.

Someone at the Ombudsmen will surely recognize that all this does not make sense and may start an investigation. It took 17 complaints for the Ornge investigation to be started. So lets contact them.

June 28, 2012 - 12:42 pmI have one big problem with

I have one big problem with Mike Wilsons and Dans comment regarding the concept of being self sufficient. Every dollar that is earned in racing is earned inside of a racetrack and every idea that you have presented as being better than slots still involves government acceptance. I believe that a v75 bet if introduced can be just as easily portayed as a subsidy as the present slots program. Michael uses the term persuade the government and I think therein lies the problem with anything this industry will attempt in funding the purse account. Persuading the OLG or the Liberals regarding any model is as close to impossible at this point because they have an agenda. Unfortunately the racing industry is not yet privy to this agenda and I am afraid persuading the government to stop describing the slots as being a subsidy will become impossible if we as an industry keep agreeing with their terminology. Can someone come up with any funding model for horse racing that does not need government approval of the funding model because if you do I would think that the Liberals would hire more spin doctors to portray it as another subsidy.

June 28, 2012 - 12:01 pmThe money used to encourage

Georg Leber SAID...

The money used to encourage Canadian and US investment alike comes from the SAR program. Make no mistake about it, the Liberals are not going to reverse their stance on the SAR program. WE KNOW it's not a subsidy but that argument is falling on deaf ears. The Liberals need to sell it at their end as well since they have already gone on record stating that it is a subsidy and a lot of the money goes south. They need to save face. The Liberals are offering $50 Million and that won't divide very well.

Jack Darling correctly suggests we need $150 Million to save the OSS program and the Liberals are not going to give it over if they think even a third of it is going to Americans. It makes business sense but politically it won't fly. We all know that too.

In the end, our business models for this industry are absolutely a nightmare. We have lived off the SAR program which was well negotiated but in the end our industry can't survive without it. There is too much competition for the betting dollars. If you read Mr. Sadinsky's 80 page report, the plan is based on the SAR money to begin with. I hope his plan is not suggesting that we need to reinstate the program because that ship has sailed. The Liberals have dug in.

If the Liberals now act like Knights and rescue us with $150 Million my guess is that we will take the money and forget that we don't have a backup plan until it is too late again. We need more guidance from some of our successful investors, like Jack Darling.

Georg Leber-ICR Racing

June 28, 2012 - 11:57 amI agree with Mike Wilson.

Dan Fisher SAID...

I agree with Mike Wilson. Time to get out of the fifties and enter the 21st century. Let's try our best as an entire industry to become self-sufficient is, possible.

June 28, 2012 - 8:32 amDoes anyone believe that Weg

Does anyone believe that Weg or any other track owner is going to let slots parlors run inside their building without reasonable compensation. The liberals will not be ready to open new casinoS. . by March 2013 so it is just a matter of time before the OLG. have meaningful negotiations with the tracks . The horsemen are presently at the trough and will not be aware that their future is being negotiated if they dont stop eating and get their head out of the feed bins. Jack has put forward exactly what horsemen need to hear which is create a plan that ties the track owners and horsemen together in a meaningful negotiation with the OLG and the Liberals, The breeding farms have seen the other side of the mountain and know that it is bleak and it seems to me that waiting til march 2013 before the desperation sets in will be to late. The hardest part of this negotiation will be to work through the rhetoric of the OLG and Liberals and find out if these statements are posturing or they actually believe their own theories about the future of racing. If it is the latter than get out the trucks and trailers and the picket signs and we will meet you in front of the casino when the money runs out.

June 27, 2012 - 9:52 pmRE: As an example if the

norm files SAID...

As an example if the purse for a maiden was $10,000 at Mohawk (lower by far) and the winner normally gets $5000. If that winner was Canadian and received a 50% bonus increasing the winnings to $7500, that would make a strong argument that the money was staying here. That's opposite to giving a 50% allowance for Ontario sired horses.

Greg. This is already taking place in the thoroughbred and Quarter horse Industry

June 27, 2012 - 8:39 pmFirst of all, Mr.Webster

First of all, Mr.Webster clearly you're from western Ontario. There is harness racing fans and horemen from central Ontario and eastern who would like to see their tracks continue on in the future. Next is Mr. Patrick, I wrote to W5 last night stating the exact same facts as you, if more people write to them maybe they will expose the truth.

Brian Collins

June 27, 2012 - 5:58 pmIf indeed it is important to

gordon banks SAID...

If indeed it is important to respond positively to the Liberals desire to ensure that horse racing generated dollars remain in Canada, then the only responsive direction to espouse is a system structured to disproportionately benefit Canadian bred horses. Perhaps Canada might also want to provide a small advantage to Canadian Owners as a matter of public policy, but surely the system proposed would be unwise if it targets American owners and thereby discourages their investment in Canadian Bloodstock. After all, when Canadians purchase US sired yearlings, hoping to race in US Sires Stakes and rewarding US Breeders, they are taking Canadian Dollars outside the country no less significantly then would an American. What Canadian racing really needs to do is make its Sires Stakes program so rewarding that all Canadians and many Americans want to participate, thereby benefiting all the links in the Canadian agricultural chain. The entire Canadian racing and breeding program should be structured to reward spending of money in Canada,(which the Canadian breeders bonus program currently tries to do). What matters is where money is spent, not what nationality spends it.
Gordon Banks

June 27, 2012 - 4:15 pmClearly, members of the

Don Patrick SAID...

Clearly, members of the Liberal party, and some of thier associates, will be lining their pockets.

We need to get an investigation started. Let the Liberals explain how Larry Tannenbaum happens to own bingo halls, and is CEO of the company that will be supplying "Video Tear Tickets". This under-handed plan has been in the works for some time now. Time to expose these people.

June 27, 2012 - 3:46 pmI agree with Mike Wilson.

max trit SAID...

I agree with Mike Wilson. The only survival for racing is to offer a product to the gambler. Racing is in competition with slots,lotteries, bingo and card games. The Breeding part of it and the rural fair part of it is all fine to be addressd but the bottom line today is money. You have to convince the government that money is going to be generated. Sad stories about savings jobs isn't going to cut it. Look what happened to the auto industry in Ontario. I saw an add today about an OLG lottery where you only have to pick two numbers to win. You can't convince me that horse racing can not offer a better chance to the public of winning more money than that.

June 27, 2012 - 2:24 pmThe Liberals are eliminating

Georg Leber SAID...

The Liberals are eliminating the competition. That appears to be their goal. There can be no doubt that they have already negotiated a deal with a US partner that has made this a condition. I would if I was that US partner. Slot machines are the only true sure profit at a casino.

So how can that be stopped? If the Conservatives came out with a statement that they would overturn everything the Liberals are doing if they win the next election, that would make a big difference. If I was that big US partner, I would not want to make a huge investment, only to have the slots returned to the Race tracks in 3 years.

The Conservatives will never make that statement.

One more thing. One point that was made by the Liberals was that they see our Slots money going to US owners. I think lower purses but significant bonuses to Canadian citizens who race at Canadian tracks have to be a condition for every race including OSS. Americans would still race here but by and large they would favour US tracks. As an example if the purse for a maiden was $10,000 at Mohawk (lower by far) and the winner normally gets $5000. If that winner was Canadian and received a 50% bonus increasing the winnings to $7500, that would make a strong argument that the money was staying here. That's opposite to giving a 50% allowance for Ontario sired horses.

Georg Leber-ICR Racing

June 27, 2012 - 1:17 pmTHERE IS ANOTHER WAY " The

mike wilson SAID...

" The Industry must be able to negotiate a satisfactory agreement with the OLG. If this can't be done it is over" ( Brian Webster)
Therein is the nub of the problem. The monopoly OLG appears to not tolerate competition that it can not control to its advantage. Without a change in that situation Brian is correct, "it is over." We can not compete with one hand tied behind our back.
The current horse industry business plan if there were one, is at best moribund. We need a plan B , NOW. We need transitional funding along the line excellently outlined by Brian and Dave to give time for us to establish plan B.
As an industry and a province we operate in a North America wide market where individual jurisdictions do their best to give support and advantage to their local participants, like the car industry. We are about to be denied that support and advantage, in fact we are about to be strangled unless we can loosen the stranglehold of the OLG.
Two of the major changes in the lives of modern society in recent decades are television and the Internet.Along with these has come a short attention span and an expectation of instant gratification. The horse racing industry has failed miserably to embrace and adapt to these changes. if we are to replace slot money WE have to find a way to increase track funds by three to five million dollars per week, no mean feat from a reduced number of tracks and participants.BUT IT CAN BE DONE. I make the following suggestion as a start
1) Persuade a television company to put on a one hour racing program on Saturday nights. Eight races, five minutes between races, from three coordinated tracks. Large two tiered fields , participants entered at least two weeks ahead.
2) Persuade the government to DIRECT the OLG to distribute tickets through their channels -(corner stores,shopping malls,bingo parlours,casinos etc) Make available Internet tickets. ticket buyers to chose the winners of all eight races to win the grand prize. No winner in any week the prize money added to next weeks competition. In other words a lottery based upon the V75 program that supports the Swedish horse racing industry.
3) Distribute a portion (<25%) of after expense income to charities to enhance our visibility and community goodwill to give us widely based allies should we come under attack again.
At the present time this could not be done because of the OLG monopoly. Alongside the entirely sensible transition proposed by Brian and Dave I believe the first step for our self salvation is to persuade the government to loosen the stranglehold of the OLG
I refuse to believe that "it is over."
Mike Wilson Warrawee Farm.

June 27, 2012 - 1:16 pmPerhaps we need to get the

Dude Love SAID...

Perhaps we need to get the Ontario Ombudsman involved.
What they do -- "Bears the responsibility of investigating complaints against provincial government organisations".

I think an investigation is in order especially when you look at the following --

Paul Godfrey says the following -- "...the mandate does not include any partnership or revenue sharing agreement for racing in the province of Ontario. Racetracks will not receive any percentage of revenue generated by slots that are left at identified tracks. Regardless, those that do will simply receive a payment from the OLG to lease the space where the slot machines are located at the racetrack. This payment will be consistent with local retail space payments. In other words, it is a straight landlord-tenant relationship.

Then a VP of the OLG says the following -- "We’re looking for the right operators for each venue,” said Dr. Sam Heath, Vice President of Strategy for the OLG, while speaking at the Canadian Gaming Summit in Niagara Falls....Heath also encouraged bidders to determine the funding model. “Tell us how you want to get paid,” he said. “We’ll pay operators a fee and they’ll be required to pay all capital and operating expenses,” He suggested a tiered commission and a fixed commission structure as two potential models. (isn't that exactly what we essentially have right now -- we get a "commission" for running their operation?!?!?!)

Then they say this about Bingo Halls --
According to regulations published on the Ontario government website this month, the revitalization of Bingo Halls will include the introduction of:
- Break open tickets played on an electronic bingo device.
- Bingo played on an electronic bingo device.
- Instant games played on an electronic bingo device.
"The Wednesday, June 13 print edition of The Peterborough Examiner ran an article that quoted OLG Spokesman Tony Bitonti in regard to the revenue structure, which has been termed 'Net Win.' Net Win will see revenues from bingo halls spilt four ways: the bingo hall operators will retain 47 per cent of the revenues; the OLG will scoop up 25 per cent; local charities will get 25 per cent, and the host municipality will get three per cent. In regard to the bingo-hall industry, The Peterborough Examiner article quoted Bitonti as saying, “It’s an industry in decline, but because it serves the charities in the communities, we can’t let this die off.”

So for BINGO HALLS - they'll get machines that are SORT of like slots machines and the OLG will only get 25%....they get 75% from the deal they have with us right now! AND - they say that BINGO HALLS are an industry they can't let die off but they are willing to roll the dice with the horse racing industry.

June 27, 2012 - 12:29 pmWhile these seem to be

While these seem to be reasonable solutions to the issue at hand the people (Liberals)on the other side of the issue are not reasonable because they hold all the cards. I have been tracking this since it started and have had the same feeling for a resolution from day one. "SHUT THE SLOT PARLORS DOWN" This would create an even playing field. No money on either side till a resolution. IT IS ABOUT MONEY ISN'T IT? Which in turn would force the liberals to at the very least face the industry (Operators and Horsemen / Women)and come up with some sort of resolution which would be fair to every-one.This would require that the racino owners/operators get together and come up with a final race date with-out consulting the liberals "NO WARNING UNTIL FINALIZED AT A PRESS CONFERENCE" maybe like November 30 or December 31. This may sound a little crazy because it would hurt every-one but the liberals want to shut it down anyway and only have a landlord tenant agreement with the casino's of there choosing, also wanting to be able to extend a lease agreement on short term to be revised by a preferred owner should they decide to utilize a specific venue until they build there own or find a more central location in there zone.Maybe this is what senator Runciman may have been referring to with his "all out attack" statement.I maybe crazy but if this was my fight that's where I would be headed.WHAT MAIN STREAM MEDIA THEN, REMEMBER " GOOD NEWS TRAVELS" and "BAD NEWS TRAVELS FAST"
Hoping for the best,

June 27, 2012 - 10:50 amOne aspect of this whole

Bob Adams SAID...

One aspect of this whole problem I feel needs to be addressed is the long time fans of both Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds. We the betting public put millions of dollars each year into the sport and I for one feel should racing cease then this government has infringed on the constitution which gives us the freedom of choice. So many of us don't play slots, roll the dice or play poker but our game of choice is the horses as is our choice and right. I truly believe if this was taken to the highest court in the country what this Liberal government is trying to do would be stopped all because they have tried to take away our choice as bettors and to the hardworking horsemen and horsewoman their industry. The Supreme Court of Canada stands behind all of our freedom of choices and think we need to take this to the next level.

June 27, 2012 - 10:47 amThese are very good

Ken Walker SAID...

These are very good proposals. Hope it works. All of Canada is watching with abated breaths. Good luck.

June 27, 2012 - 9:25 amFirst mistake: Sweden, with 8

First mistake: Sweden, with 8 millions of citizens has more tan 30 race tracks in the country, France has this year more than 270 race tracks etc.
This is one of the reasons why they are successful and without the lottery, video poker .
The fair ground is where you find the future fans, and develop the love, the passion for harness racing.
Kill the fair grands and you kill the industry future.

richard lavigne

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