Long-Term Funding Plan For Ontario Racing Announced

Charles Sousa, Ontario Minister of Finance, and Jeff Leal, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, announced a long-term funding agreement with the horse racing sector in a press conference held Friday afternoon (March 23) at Flamboro Downs.

“Our government recognizes that the horse racing industry is vital to communities across Ontario," said Leal. "That’s why our government remains committed to ensuring long-term sustainability of the horse racing industry and the rural communities that depend on it. This new, collaborative agreement will provide owners, breeders and racetrack operators with the support they need to ensure stability and success for the long term.”

The announcement of the agreement comes five years after the conclusion of the Slots at Racetracks Program, and will see up to $105 million a year set aside for the horse racing sector in the province through 2038.

Standardbred Canada's President & CEO Dan Gall (R) along with OLG President & CEO Stephen Rigby (L) and Minister of Finance Charles Sousa at Friday's announcement

"Our government is committing to a landmark agreement that will support the long-term sustainability of horse racing in Ontario," said Sousa, echoing Leal's commitment to the economic development horse racing provides for many rural communities in the province. "This funding will encourage economic development in rural communities across the province, while giving race tracks and breeders an opportunity to build a strong future for an industry that is central to our heritage.”

The official Ontario Ministry of Finance statement follows:

Ontario is committing to a long-term funding agreement with the horse racing sector, supporting jobs in rural Ontario and strengthening local economies across the province.

The new agreement will provide up to $105 million a year, for 19 years, for the horse racing sector, starting April 1, 2019, plus additional supports for smaller racetracks and those that are experiencing financial shortfalls.

To further help transform the industry and bolster rural communities, Ontario will continue the Enhanced Horse Improvement Program and introduce a new Racetrack Sustainability Innovation Fund, providing up to $6 million over three years, beginning in 2018, to help regional racetracks innovate, diversify and expand revenue sources to ensure the vitality of the industry for generations to come.

The long-term funding agreement will also empower the horse racing industry to work together to make long-term decisions about horse breeding, racing programs, capital investments and hiring. It will include specific measures focused on supporting community racetracks, including operational funding and purses.

Ontario's plan to support care, create opportunity and make life more affordable during this period of rapid economic change includes a higher minimum wage and better working conditions, free tuition for hundreds of thousands of students, easier access to affordable child care, and free prescription drugs for everyone under 25, and 65 or over, through the biggest expansion of medicare in a generation.

Quick Facts

• Ontario is home to 15 racetracks — more than any other North American jurisdiction.
• Funding will be administered by Ontario Racing, which is responsible for representing industry interests, making strategic business decisions, and strengthening transparency and accountability.
• The Ontario Racing board will have equal representation of racetracks and horsepeople, with five seats for racetracks, five for horsepeople, including breeders, and an independent chair.
• The new long-term funding agreement will replace the existing Horse Racing Partnership Funding Program.


On thing about it, as proven with the cancellation of SARP on a whim, this agreement can change at any moment. We had no say in who represented racing, we will have no say in how the money is distributed and we will have no say if/when the governments or administrators of Ontario Racing decide to change the framework.

I would like to see how the money is broken down between tracks, breeds & purses etc

First of all I would like to thank the committee for their hard work and dedication to getting a funding program in place. $105M per year is a positive move and will put some stability into the minds of the horse people in Ontario. As mentioned in an earlier comment my concern is there is no inflation factor built into this program.

I believe this to be great news for the industry. I'm also aware of the rent that is paid to the racetracks that are operating casinos. As fans though, we need something to generate some excitement amongst each other. We all have competitive sides. Each time I see postings on the website of world handicapping contests, it truly discourages me. We need something similar to this in Canada (even if its just once a year) of this magnitude or greater. This will allow fans to communicate and have an enjoyable night and share camaraderie. Tired of advocating for this to happen, I truly believe this will help the sport. As a fan I'm tired of pulling the string off the bale of straw, while the industry pulls off the second string. If you don't believe pulling off the first string is harder, try it.

I'llHaveAnother - Ontario needs racing and new fans.

105 million for next, and maybe the year after is good, but what in 5, 10 or 20 years? The value of 105 million in 10 to 20 years will be a quarter of what it is today. I don't know about anybody else but I have noticed that everything is going up in our world and around us except the purses.

I believe, for us horsepeople, the main thing is to have purse $ and opportunity to race! The funding and opportunity in 2017 just wasn’t enough for people to invest in our game. This is evidenced with the extreme shortage of horses at Ontario tracks! This long term deal with the govt will only be good if the added $ goes towards purses and helps create the ability for the industry to build a prosperous business plan for everyone in racing, not just racetracks and it’s employees. Hopefully companies that have won the gaming bundles in Ontario will be held to task where racing is concerned, and won’t be allowed to hold this industry hostage.

Seems like a reasonable long term (20 year) commitment from the Liberal camp. With an election just around the corner it would be good to know the plans the Conservatives and NDP have for the Industry

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