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Jack Darling's Blog


We need a "financial arrangement that allows for success."

Published: July 2, 2013 10:46 am ET

Last Comment: July 3, 2013 1:15 pm ET | 11 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Our premier, Kathleen Wynne, has made it clear that she understands how important the horse racing industry is to Ontario, and has asked the panel to come up with a long term plan so that we have a sustainable future.

To have a sustainable future, any industry needs a chance to grow and prosper. This makeshift deal that is happening now, where the government hands out money here and there will not work. People will not invest in an industry if all the arrows are pointing down. This government has come to learn that horse racing is a tremendous industry, involving many thousands of people and associated businesses. The nature of this business is that the purse money earned is put back into the economy at an extremely high rate. This is good for our economy because the money generated in horse racing stays in circulation.

Before I continue, I want to state my concern with this panel’s thoughts on refocusing HIP. In harness racing, a strong Sires Stakes program is an absolute necessity in having a vibrant and successful breeding and racing industry. Over the years, much effort has been made in Ontario by industry leaders to put together the best Sires Stakes program in North America. I believe that we do have the best Sires Stake program and are the envy of the racing world. The changes that the panel is proposing to the program are wrong and ill-advised in my opinion, and have the potential of doing significant harm to the industry.

There are some good ideas in this panel’s first draft and I would like to talk about them at a later date, but for now, to make all these improvements possible, we need to address the most important cog in the wheel of any industry and that is MONEY. Ms. Wynne has made it clear that she supports a strong horse racing industry and that it should be integrated with the OLG.

The following is what I think is needed to accomplish this:

1. If slot machines are at a racetrack (and they should be because they have proven to be successful and the government wants integration) the tracks and horse people should get a percentage of the profits from the slot machines. The States that we have to compete with south of the border all share their slot machine profits with the racing industry, and are prospering. Ohio is the newest state to join in and they have brought horse racing back from the grave and turned it into a thriving industry again. Like us, Ohio has a large rural community that relies on horse racing as part of the total agricultural industry. One thing that is seldom mentioned is that slot revenues are up considerably on the nights and days when there is live racing at the track. This is something that should be considered as an additional justification for sharing the slot revenues.

2. If this panel and government insist that the percentage the horse racing industry was getting with the SARP deal was too high, then it should be adjusted to a rate that is acceptable to all parties, and accomplish Ms. Wynne’s desire to solve this problem.

3. To make up for some of the lost income that our industry would lose due to a smaller cut from the slot revenues, instant racing machines should be vigorously pursued. The thing I like most about these machines is that they are horse racing. It is something that the tracks can use to create interest in live racing. I envision these instant racing machines being integrated within the racetrack itself, and placed in sections that are accessible to live racing.

One of our problems is the amount of time between live races, and these machines are perfect for the customers who want instant entertainment between the live races. I think these new machines placed within the tracks themselves, as well as at other off-track terminals, would be good for horse racing and a great added revenue producer for the government and horse racing.

4. All of the suggestions by the panel for added revenue sources are very good and should be pursued, but in themselves are not enough to accomplish the goals of the government, and certainly not the needs of the horse racing industry.

There is no doubt that the racing industry has had a big problem with track ownership, where certain owners have no interest in horse racing, and have been allowed to take large sums of money out of the SARP deal and then put nothing back into the business. In contrast, horse people and the tracks that care about horse racing put almost everything back into the business and the economy.

The tracks that truly care about horse racing and horse people should be given the tools to carry on and make Ontario the envy of the horse racing world just as we have been for years. Georgian Downs and Flamboro Downs are great facilities in good markets and are much needed by the harness racing industry. Great Canadian Gaming or their successor needs the incentive to run an adequate number of race days at these tracks, and promote racing and wagering to the fullest. Rideau Carleton is in a big market and needs to promote racing and wagering more as well.

With these for-profit tracks a certain amount of checks and balances seem to be needed to ensure that horse racing and wagering is promoted to the fullest. Windsor should be a good market for horse racing, has historically had a pretty good handle, and should have a racetrack. It seems hard to imagine right now, but if the right conditions and incentives were put into place that would entice someone or some group to build a new racetrack there, it would be a tremendous lift for Ontario horse racing, and a sign of success by this government and panel. Ontario has been the model of success for horse racing for years that other states and countries have copied, and with some of these new changes and improvements that the panel is talking about along with adequate revenue, we can raise the bar even higher.

In conclusion, this panel has put a lot of work into this report and I agree with some of their observations, and possible solutions. Building the handle, catering to our customers, promoting horse racing, etc. are all very important, and I would really like to get into a discussion on all of these issues, but first it is of utmost importance that we start with a financial arrangement that allows for success.

July 3, 2013 - 1:15 pmMr. Yamakva---I'm very

Lynne Magee SAID...

Mr. Yamakva---I'm very serious when I say that you should be included on a panel of concerned interests. So far, we have a poorly informed government and government appointed panel that are making all of the decisions. To date, each report has had the effect of driving more and more people out of horse racing. We need fresh blood that is better informed and willing to listen to all aspects of the business including the betting sector. You may be saying things that many of us don't like to hear and don't agree with but I'm sure you're opinion is not one that stands alone. You have every right to have your voice heard. I hope that you keep writing and that your contributions are NOT dismissed. I have learned a lot from your comments and agree that we need to leave the promotional and developmental stuff to professionals. We have enough to do just looking after our horses and farms.

July 3, 2013 - 7:25 amMr strasbourg... Where is

Will Yamakva SAID...

Mr strasbourg...

Where is this money coming from to raise purses like you want?

July 2, 2013 - 8:09 pmMr Irving.... Mrs

Will Yamakva SAID...

Mr Irving....
Mrs Magee....

Im started to get insulted that as a bettor and a fan, apparently everyone knows how to fix what we watch and bet on, and they should be getting paid fatly to do that. It is amazing people with out marketing or promotions or advertising backgrounds, are going to know more about consumers..... than people that live and work in that industry.

I am not claiming to know how to train or drive these horses, and it would be silly for me to suggest it, but as a person that does those three for a living, to be told by people that do not do any of them for a living, that i am misdirected, or wrong or that I do not know..... is painful.

I have written HUGE replies to help, and I am always met with being told it is not my fault, its misdirected, it is this and that....

im starting to think this is a waste of hours of my week typing and working on things to help these people.

July 2, 2013 - 7:57 pmCompensation should be in

Will Yamakva SAID...

Compensation should be in order?

Come on Mr MacDonald, you have tracks giving away more than 8 times the amount they take in. You should earn your compensation, or let others that do not need that much compensation host the slots. Why not get compensation from Pro-line as well? Hey, Lotto 6/49 changing it's format and Super 7 stole from you guys as well. Internet betting also crushed you, let's also include them as people that should compensate your loss of handle. Remember horseman, you want compensation, but as other areas have done, and Ontario wants to do, that money can just as well go into other areas other than racetracks. Bars and what not said no before, but if they were given the opportunity now like Quebec did, do not think they would not jump on it. Same goes for bingos. Horseman need to stop thinking about slots as the savior and start thinking about how to improve itself.

As for Mr Darling, a much better idea of what is needing to be done, but I have a couple of things to toss at you.

1) The idea of instant machines is a horrid mess. Instead of continually trying to jam racing down people's throats, how about some actual entertainment? How about something for kids? How about the drivers do something for the fans? How about something more interactive than more horse racing? Real gamblers do not care for these things and

2) "There is no doubt that the racing industry has had a big problem with track ownership, where certain owners have no interest in horse racing, and have been allowed to take large sums of money out of the SARP deal and then put nothing back into the business. In contrast, horse people and the tracks that care about horse racing put almost everything back into the business and the economy."

while you are busy blaming the tracks, do not forget Mr Darling, you trainers do not help matters. Tracks cant advertise stars arriving and racing, when they only know about it a few days in advance. (I understand why, but you need to look at other sports, and see they have no choice but to market tournaments, games and big events MONTHS ahead of time). You also cant blame the tracks for retiring the big name superstars after the 3 year old or 4 year old season because MUCH bigger money awaits YOU in the breeding shed.

Until you and many others address the fact that some small B tracks are MASSIVE money drains as they have little to no handle, but are giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, with little money generated, the government and no sound business person is going to listen to you. Unless you revenue share........ (im cracking up at the thought of it because we all know it will not happen), you have some that are making it, and some that are total mooches off the system.

Ms Powell said, "If the slots stay at our tracks we have to be a part of it's profits ,if not we will never get off the ground with this panels arrangement. The slots will eat us up"

So far Ms Powell, if you read these boards, and look at these without thinking of the horseman, many of these ideas and suggestions, are hardly going to get you anywhere. So far, horseman have not given a viable solution or even come up with some..... without MAJOR flaws. Look at what other "professional" sports have done, and look at these suggestions.

I wish you all luck and cheering hard for you. Again, horseman are not in the public promotions department, no more than the public promotions department should be in your barns.

Until you all get someone or a group that gets this, it hurts my heart watching all this go on.

I would like a blog, since the horse fan does not get a large voice.

July 2, 2013 - 7:23 pmThere is always the old

There is always the old argument, what came first, the chicken or the egg? However, there can be no argument concerning racinos. The racinos are there because there was a race track and the race track was there because there were horses. In other words, horses were an integral part in the evolution of the cash cow called racinos. My point is that we should be full fledged partners with the race tracks and OLG, and insist on getting a percentage of the profits(even if we have to negotiate a lesser amount) from OLG. Jack Darling is right, any thing less will not inspire the confidence to invest and grow our business.
Ted Wilson

July 2, 2013 - 6:17 pmVery well done!!! Mr.

Very well done!!! Mr. Macdonald points are well taken but does not address the core issues and the problems and challenges the industry is facing.

The bigger points:

1- A possible deal with the government and the tracks to share the income of the slots on a long term plan. The longer term plan will get people shy to invest, at the present, time to re-enter in the game.

2- Introduce governance bodies and give them a clear mandate of our these moneys need to be spent (example% for purse, % to infrastructure, % for promotion and advertising...ect.... A set of rules should be made to be followed at all cost by all racetracks. MAKE THE TRACKS ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE MONEY.

3- All purse at B tracks need to increase their purses (based on point 2) so the owners re-invest in our game. I never saw a business without owners. The current purses are sufficient only for trainers-owners. The industry can not flourish without the investors.

4- The Ontario OSS. Perfect the way it is now. The purses are more in line with what the Industry can afford. This commitment should be for more than 2 years to increase the level of confidence in both the breeding Industry and the investors.

5- Reduce the intake.

6- Once this is all completed and we have a structure in place....we need a plan of action to increase our fan base targeting a younger crowd.

7- Negotiate a tax waiver for investors with CA to increase the number of owners. The friends and family usually also get involve in the game.

Mr. Darling would be a great addition to the panel and we would also need the presence of an owner (which are never represented) slash businessman.

Very good work Mr. Darling.

July 2, 2013 - 6:04 pmJack, I also share your

Tom Berzins SAID...


I also share your concern with the panel's interpretation of HIP. Sbsw, San Pail, and Michaels Power clearly refute it and make a case that the 40 million the OSS was funded with, should be reinstated.
I do agree MONEY is a priority with a term longer than 3 years. However, funding the industry with slot money may be arbitrary given the 1 to 1 formula they've laid out. I think it's imperative we determine whether that ratio is adequate.

Sincerely, Tom Berzins

July 2, 2013 - 2:32 pmWell done Jack, There are

Well done Jack,
There are many sides to this, your 100% right.
The slots revenue goes up substantially while races are on. There is no denying that.
Compensation should be in order.

July 2, 2013 - 1:28 pmJack ,you have exactly the

Peggy Powell SAID...

Jack ,you have exactly the right idea. WE must get a share of the slots if we are to be a success. If the slots stay at our tracks we have to be a part of it's profits ,if not we will never get off the ground with this panels arrangement. The slots will eat us up.

July 2, 2013 - 12:25 pmWell stated Jack. It could

Lynne Magee SAID...

Well stated Jack. It could and should be a far more simple 'fix' but this panel seems to have complicated it far beyond the comprehension of most horsepeople and, more than likely, the government as well. Of course, they are getting well paid to do so. To quote John Snobelen from a speech from made soon after his appointment as Mike Harris' Minister of Education and Training in 1995, "the PC government needs to "bankrupt" and to create a "useful crisis" in the education system so as to initiate significant reforms." This could easily be applied to our current horse racing industry situation. Create a crisis so that the government gets what they want in the end and gets a pat on the back 'fixing' the crisis. I believe Ms. Wynne truly would like to see horse racing have a sustainable future but with this panel's input, she is not getting the true picture of just how devastating these latest set of proposals will be to most of us. She needs to listen more to the industry itself and not just to a panel that was appointed by government officials whose intent it was to destroy horse racing in Ontario. Jack would certainly be an excellent candidate to be a part of a group that represents standardbred horsepeople and racing. The thoroughbred sector of the industry has certainly fared far better than has the standardbred. Even this panel admits that the two have different components and need to addressed separately. So let's get to work!

July 2, 2013 - 11:58 amYou mention a problem of "the

You mention a problem of "the amount of time between races"!Your industry adds to the problem of "lull" between races by "dragging" the post time.Every race,at EVERY harness track in North America "insults" the customer by saying post time is going off at a certain time when they know damn well,they are going to delay it by at LEAST 5 minutes.

This is ONE of the reasons your sport is dying.Your industry is ignorant when it comes to the customer.

Typical horse racing solution.Put some whip cream on that onion.Oh yea.did i mention we need more money!

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