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OMAFRA-WEG Deal Reached; ORC Moves To OMAFRA

Published: January 23, 2013 12:35 pm ET

Last Comment: February 1, 2013 11:32 am ET | 24 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

According to releases sent out by both the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Woodbine Entertainment Group, a deal has been reached between the two parties pertaining to live racing at Woodbine Racetrack and Mohawk Racetrack.

A release from OMAFRA states, "Ontario is another step closer to a sustainable horse racing industry after reaching an agreement in principle to provide transition funding to the province's largest provider of horse racing."

The agreement with Woodbine Entertainment Group will ensure races continue at the Woodbine and Mohawk tracks as the industry adapts to a more sustainable model. Agreements with additional racetracks are anticipated to be reached in the coming weeks.

No details on the arrangement were released.

In order to receive transition funding, racetracks will have to meet accountability and transparency requirements. Providing a number of racetracks with transition funding is part of the government's horse racing industry transition plan, which includes:

Helping the horse racing industry transition to a more sustainable model is part of the McGuinty government's plan to ensure increased accountability for the use of public funds.

To date, 10 racetracks have reached lease agreements in principle with OLG for its slots facilities. Additional agreements with tracks are to be announced in the coming weeks.

The Ontario Racing Commission will work with racetracks to provide a revised 2013 racing calendar as agreements are finalized.

"This agreement points to a renewed future for horse racing in Ontario. We look forward to working with additional racetracks towards the further development of a new model for a sustainable industry," said Ted McMeekin, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

"The transition funding provides much needed stability for the industry. We are pleased with the government's commitment to ensure the long-term viability of horse racing and breeding which has a proud heritage in Ontario," said Nick Eaves, CEO of Woodbine Entertainment Group. "We look forward to working in partnership with government as we discuss the long term future of a sustainable horse racing industry."

According to WEG, the deal ensures the continuation of live horse racing at Woodbine and Mohawk Racetracks for the next two years.

"This long-awaited agreement offers stability while WEG and our partners in horse racing work with government towards a long-term sustainability solution," said Jim Lawson, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Woodbine Entertainment Group. "It's clear to us that this is only a short-term fix, and sustainability can only be achieved by the integration of horse racing into the province's gaming strategy. As the largest operator of horse racing in Canada, WEG is committed to working with the government to achieve this critical outcome."

Lawson noted that horse racing has a long and important history in Ontario, and that in recent years the industry has established a business model - and a level of racing excellence - recognized the world over. "Our challenge is to now build a new, sustainable model for horse racing in Ontario that continues to set the standard internationally. I'm confident that working with our partners in industry and government, we can achieve that goal. Our industry deserves nothing less."

(With files from OMAFRA and WEG)

February 1, 2013 - 11:32 amMr Johnson, I interpret your

Eric Poteck SAID...

Mr Johnson,
I interpret your comment 'that's rich' to mean you don't believe the industry can grow handle. I respect your opinion. There are many in the industry who would agree with you. I don't happen to be one of them.

January 29, 2013 - 7:02 am\Where is OMAFRA? Why are

\Where is OMAFRA? Why are deals being made between tracks and OLG and no representative of racing. Is OMAFRA happy now that Woodbine and Mohawk are settled for 2 yrs? We want more than we are getting which is NOTHING.

January 28, 2013 - 1:18 amMr. Eric Poteck, "belief in

Mr. Eric Poteck,

"belief in your ability to grow handle", that's rich.

The OLG used the harness racing product to get their slot machines into rural communities some 15 years ago. They took advantage of having an existing gambling base that harness racing provided while converting horse players into slot addicts. Oh, they also had a government monopoly with the clout of government regulators in their corner. Bottomless pockets of tax-payer money for promotion and advertising. Not quite a free market for competition.
The reason these communities allowed the slot boxes in their backyard was the guarantee of employment and prosperity the OLG was sharing with their partnership with the horsemen. End result, 50,000 potential lost jobs through the cancellation of SARP.

Tell me how any business could grow while being in competition with the endless resources of a government.

Do you think that the BINGOs should display a belief in growing their handle? Oh I guess they don't have to....they have government partners will to give them 47% of taxpayer profits.

January 27, 2013 - 9:52 amSpot on in my view Mr. Eric

Spot on in my view Mr. Eric Poteck. Also one does not have to look far to find the solution. The Meadowlands!!

January 25, 2013 - 1:09 pmWe as an industry are ruled

John Hill SAID...

We as an industry are ruled by the government(the competion)and anything we try to do needs government approval.Any new ideas being put out there now are being considered OLG territory and get no approval, how can we grow our industry when the competion decides if we are able to implement these ideas ? I would like to thank Jody Jamieson for standing up for ALL horsemen and not just his own self interest. In the name of transparency being touted by the liberals what are the details of this agreement and why cant't it be applied to all racetracks?

January 25, 2013 - 10:34 amMr Jody Jamieson, Given the

Eric Poteck SAID...

Mr Jody Jamieson,
Given the new model, the amount of money available is irrelevant to horse people. Your fate and income will now be reliant on the industry's ability to grow pari-mutuel wagering.

As a young industry leader your energies and that of your peers would be best served by focusing on making the Ontario brand of horse race wagering truly customer friendly and customer driven.

If you don't show confidence in your product and display a belief in your ability to grow handle how can you expect your customers, the horseplayers, to be confident in your product and support your industry?

January 25, 2013 - 8:02 amThere is one more factor that

Sheldon Rose SAID...

There is one more factor that you should add to your cycle, Jody. With the grassroot support leaving the industry, there will be fewer horses racing. With fewer horses, the tracks will say that they can't fill races. They will request and probably get fewer race dates until the only dates they have will be for slots.

January 24, 2013 - 5:57 pmJody.... while you average a

Will Yamakva SAID...


while you average a miilion per card, places like woodstock dont, but have days where the purses are comparable to Woodbine.

Do you not think shrinking the purses at Woodbine and them dispersing some money so you can have them Sudbury races that have $1300 bet, but offer a purse of $5000?

January 24, 2013 - 1:04 pmI guess the questions around

I guess the questions around this agreement are, how much money is available, how much money is available, and how much money is available?? The tracks will get money for running horse races, but the purse money, that we all rely on, is going to come from pari-mutuel handle at the tracks! I'm not sure how we will be able to continue on at WEG with current 2013 purse structure, when we will be losing 40 race days off the top which results in $40,000,000 in betting churn lost!! We average over $1,000,000 a card at wdb, so lose that and we will have to rely on the underpayment in the purse pool, once that runs out, there will be a purse decrease, and then when we go thru the close to $25 million that the ORC is making tracks hold in their purse accounts, we are left with what the pari-mutuel is and then when that isn't able to sustain the purses, we end up cutting more race days and then this vicious cycle is repeated, until our beloved game isn't able to sustain one job, let alone, 55,000!!!

January 24, 2013 - 8:47 amMy biggest problem with this

Geoff Maltby SAID...

My biggest problem with this whole release is the timeing. It has been all over the news, almost every channel has played "Horse Racing will continue at Woodbine and Mohawk". amazing how this has been news worthy but our whole story all along has not been. Now the Liberal press machine can play us off an ignore us again, they really know how to set everything up to make them look good.

January 23, 2013 - 7:58 pmAs we all know, trying to

As we all know, trying to find alternate employment coming from this industry is incredibly difficult. The idea that there will be jobs for another 30 or 40 thousand horse people is a joke. No one outside the industry understands what you have spent decades working at.

January 23, 2013 - 7:03 pmNorm. Weg employees ie:


Weg employees ie: mutuels,security,maintence have been hit very hard by all of this, more than 10 % alot have lost their jobs altogether.

January 23, 2013 - 6:24 pmI agree with Glenn. Using

Sheldon Rose SAID...

I agree with Glenn. Using the ORC to shape the industry is a huge mistake. Through their IM Group, they have done nothing to grown the industry. Their allocation of purse money and race dates have shown us that their model for racing has failed. The ORC should just regulate.

January 23, 2013 - 6:17 pmI agree Peggy. All in or

Jamie Higgs SAID...

I agree Peggy. All in or bust! If you don't get the word out, The public won't care. Everyone I give the facts too can't believe the Liberals would jeopardize so many Rural jobs. For anyone that doesn't make it to Toronto. Shut up and stop whining you had your chance and I will no longer feel sorry for you.

January 23, 2013 - 5:46 pmDefine "in principle"

Karen Duck SAID...

Define "in principle"

January 23, 2013 - 5:05 pmThe players in this industry

Norm Brunet SAID...

The players in this industry that have taken the hits thus far are owners and breeders. Does anybody think that the WEG board of directors are making less in salary or their employees ? Or WFR board and track employees are making 10% less, and I doubt it even crossed their mind. My vet blacksmith feedman trainer won't reduce my bill by 10%. In regards to my horseman's reps I have very little news and certainly they were not kept in the loop when it came to negotiations for my future.
The track owners whom have been empowered from the start to take care of the marketing and handle of our industry have significantly dropped the ball and lead us to this point of having to depend on government programs and on the brink of exstinction. Without horses you do not have horseracing but without owners and investors, which have all taken financial hits in the last year, you still don't have racing. It's maybe time to form an owners association because it seems no one else is there to represent them.

January 23, 2013 - 4:32 pmIf anyone has the idea that

Peggy Powell SAID...

If anyone has the idea that the racing in Ontario is going to be any thing like we are used to they should give their head a shake. Call COSA and OHHA and reserve your seat on the bus to the Liberal convention on the weekend. It is our only hope. Tell the new leader, whom ever it is, that we are a strong and united Industry and that they should listen to Mr Burgess and the rest of the 55,000 people whom they are supposed to represent. Get off your butts. Do something.

January 23, 2013 - 3:58 pmThe tracks will get to lease

Norman Hall SAID...

The tracks will get to lease their properties for a fee to be determined but none of that money will go to purses. The result - half the dates and half the purses, just what the OMAFRA panel proposed for the standardbreds. Woodbine gets two years before they face the possibility of some other operator moving their slots to another site - the other tracks have no such guarantee - yet, and even if they do racing will be history when the purse pools runs dry.

January 23, 2013 - 3:44 pmA very simple

A very simple REMINDER...United We Stand.......Divided we FALL!!!!

January 23, 2013 - 3:26 pmCongrats Weg It appears the

Congrats Weg It appears the Liberals have blinked so now it is important for everyone who doesnt own or work at a racetrack to continue to pressure everybody and anybody with power that using racetracks and the ORC as your driving forces for shaping the industry is a big mistake. New Jersey is the new shining example where the Meadowlands and its owner are being portayed as the savior and have been allowed to reshape the industry. We talk about improving handle and better racing while the number of stallions has been reduced to two and the resident mares and farms have been reduced to a shell of its former self. New Jersey does not have a racing industry it has a racetrack and if Ontario does not learn from the mistakes of this model and distributes all of the revenue through the racetracks then we will become New Jersey of the north. It is sad that ten racetracks know what revenue they have going forward and not one breeding farm or any of the 55000 people connected to this industry have any idea how much or where they will be racing. Would it be fair for anyone in racing to feel like the guy who brought a girl to the party to only find out she is leaving with some other guy. And the most insulting part of the whole analogy is that the new couple OLG and racetracks are going to offer us a sympathy drive home. Does anyone think the Liberals remember or care that racetracks receive slot revenue because of racing not despite racing.

January 23, 2013 - 3:19 pmThe Ontario Lottery and

Jim Singer SAID...

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) is pleased to announce that it has reached lease agreements in principle for its slots operations with eight of its site holders. This includes:

•Woodbine Racetrack;
•Mohawk Racetrack;
•Rideau Carleton Raceway;
•Hanover Raceway;
•Woodstock Raceway;
•Dresden Raceway;
•Sudbury Downs; and
•Clinton Raceway.

OLG has provided the siteholders with a Letter of Intent, which sets out the general intentions and business arrangements, subject to approvals, between the site and OLG. On December 21, 2012, OLG announced agreements in principle with Western Fair District Raceway and Kawartha Downs Racetrack

January 23, 2013 - 2:56 pmA deal with no details made

A deal with no details made public? Suspect to say the least. An announcement of this nature given the time it's taken and under the circumstances TRANSPARENCY for the industry would have been served well and full disclosure of agreement details would have aided other racetracks in the negotiation process. While WEG secures WEG (for at least 2 years) the rest of Ontario still WAITS..... What happened to One Voice? Once again the Liberals use divide and conquer tactics. Congratulations to whom ever is in charge!

January 23, 2013 - 2:50 pmwhich 10 tracks have reached

Tony Bolger SAID...

which 10 tracks have reached agreements?

why is everything a secret? lets get everything out in the open

January 23, 2013 - 2:34 pmWhat are the terms of the

What are the terms of the agreement? They should be fully disclosed so that the industry and public can determine; it a good deal b. is it a good deal under the circumstances c. how will this affect the industry as a whole or d. did the Liberal government give the industry another screw job

Bringing all deals such as this into the light of day for scrutiny is the only way to foster a sustainable, long term model for the industry.

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