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Seiling On Track Stalemates

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Published: January 4, 2010 3:33 pm ET

Last Comment: January 7, 2010 5:48 pm ET | 12 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

The following is an open letter penned by Ontario Racing Commission Chair Rod Seiling on the lack of contracts between horsepeople and racetracks at Hiawatha Horse Park and Sudbury Downs


Late in the day on December 31, 2009, the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) was informed that, due to the inability of the horsepeople and racetrack management at both Hiawatha Horse Park and Sudbury Downs to agree to a new contract, all simulcasting operations would be shut down effective January 1, 2010.

Therefore, under the Commission’s mandate to act in the public interest, I have asked ORC Executive Director John Blakney to work with the parties of the respective disputes to immediately find a way to reopen the markets so that horse racing’s customers can continue to watch and wager, and the industry can continue to earn revenues that flow back to the entire horse racing industry.

I am dismayed and disappointed that the respective parties are so short sighted that they opted to penalize the most important component of their joint business, the customer. Why not find a mutually acceptable means to keep the customer served? For example, simulcasting could easily be allowed to continue with the funds earned put in trust until a mutually acceptable contract was negotiated that would address the splits.

Are racing’s customers in such great supply that it can afford the luxury of turning off the
signal? Today, customers have many options on where to spend their “disposable” dollars. They don’t need horse racing, horse racing needs them!

What message is the industry sending to government, a government that continues to support horse racing like no other government in North America? Lest there be any doubt to that statement, one only has to read the recent announcement by Minister Duncan providing new lifeblood for Fort Erie Racetrack and in the process, reinforcing its commitment to the slots at racetrack initiative.

The Commission does not become involved in commercial disputes unless the health and welfare of the horse is at risk, the safety of participants is at risk, or to act in the public interest. Recent decisions involving Sudbury Downs, Rideau Carlton Raceway and WEG/OHHA provide proof and need not be repeated.

Whether the parties realize it or not, horse racing is in a crisis as it relates to the public betting on its races. It is not my opinion, but that of many knowledgeable observers and participants in the industry who have communicated that message time and again to us at the Commission.

Horse racing cannot be allowed to become a total ward of the state. It must keep what customers it has and identify new ways and means to build that base. In short, horse racing
has to have an entertainment value component. Allowing the old ways of shutting out the customer – a process that helped bring on the current crisis – is not in the cards. I would expect that all the parties will want to do the right thing.

Horsepeople and racetracks are partners; it is time for them to start acting as such. I am confident that with a renewed outlook, a new beginning can bring new results.

Rod Seiling
Chair
Ontario Racing Commission

January 7, 2010 - 5:48 pmSudbury Downs agrees that

Sudbury Downs agrees that the racing fan is the most important component of the racing industry,but what have they done for the racing fan in northern ontario very little,they will not provide excess to internet and telephone account betting,off track locations are hundreds of miles apart the few we do have.Too far to travel.Poor equipment.I for one had enough.

January 5, 2010 - 3:59 pmJeff, you are 150% correct.

alan guthrie SAID...

Jeff, you are 150% correct. Again the ORC passes the buck when it is them, the so called ruling body, that supposedly has the power to rule to clean up the business. But as you said, they would rather waste valuable time and resources on idiotic rules like the new urging rule. You want to talk about losing bettors. The ORC only wants to impose they're so-called power on those that either can't afford to fight back or are small enough, that they just don't care. I am still waiting for purse monies ordered paid back over 2 years ago due to a positive test. But because the owner has money he has been allowed to APPEAL HAVING TO PAY THE MONEY BACK. This is just a prime example of the fine job that Mr. Seiling and his commission are doing to enhance our business.

January 5, 2010 - 12:48 pmC.Renon Again a lack of

carlo renon SAID...

C.Renon Again a lack of leadership among all the stakeholders of the horse racing industry from the horseman to the ORC. It's time to get fresh faces with fresh ideas and the ability to think outside the box and see the big picture! Certainly we do not have that now.

January 5, 2010 - 11:48 am"Allowing the old ways of

Brian Bolt SAID...

"Allowing the old ways of shutting out the customer .... is not in the cards."
But the current regulations still allow it and that's exactly what is happening. I have an HPI account and enjoy betting online. However, at the moment I can't access MY OWN MONEY in my account to make any bets because I happen to reside in the Hiawatha track area. Regardless of racetrack/OHHA contract disputes, the current regulations that permit innocent third parties (bettors) to be shut out at the windows are completely archaic in today's computer age and must be changed.

January 5, 2010 - 12:25 pmBravo I think, well no maybe

Bravo I think, well no maybe not. Mr. Seiling your letter sounds great but that's all. Why not devote some of your time trying to get the CPMA to change it's license requirements, since no racetrack may be granted a pari-mutuel license to operate without an agreement in place with a recognized horsemens' association. If you were to start lobbying now it might take about 5 years of course and I'm sure along with this policy there are more archaic regulations that should be updated for this century. During this time someone will have to study the impact of such a change, maybe form a working group and seek input from all the stakeholders as to all of the ramifications of this change etc.etc. etc. Sound familiar. We see this all to often in this sport, great words and pronouncements but little or no action. More red tape and regulation, more endless meetings, committees and working groups all the while that downward spiral you speak of continues.
Responsible informed people should be able to make decisions and implement policy before the train wreck happens not by playing catch-up just to look like they are doing something. Indeed I would argue that this scenario is exactly what has happened on more than one occasion in the last decade and then poor policy, rules, regulations and statutes are enacted that only make things worse.
Forgotten in this as you have correctly stated is the customer. However until regulators admit they too have played a part with their actions and have affected us all and will now work to resolve or correct their mistakes, I would argue that racetracks, horsepeople and other individuals involved in the sport have little power to make the changes necessary to help our dwindling customer base let alone bring in new customers. I have said it before the status quo is not an option any longer and so although I appreciate the sentiments expressed in your letter however I would rather see concrete actions taken by all.
david gilders

January 5, 2010 - 9:03 amDear, Rod

Dear, Rod Seiling
Chair
Ontario Racing Commission

The lack of leadership the ORC continues to show is astonishing. All you can say is “Whether the parties realize it or not, horse racing is in a crisis as it relates to the public betting on its races. It is not my opinion, but that of many knowledgeable observers and participants in the industry who have communicated that message time and again to us at the Commission."

Why there are not implemented rules in place that would keep the simulcasts open for business in case of contract interruptions boggles my mind. This bs has been going on for too long and the unfortunate part is the customer suffers the most which ultimately leads to our sports already rapid demise.

With respect to the situation at Sudbury Downs, management has given the horsemen no choice but to not agree to their contract offer. Sudbury Downs wants %90 of thesimulcast revenue when they already receive %80. What happens next contract when Sudbury Downs wants %100!

Our leadership wastes so much time on BS such as the whipping rule when the proper guidelines where already in place to begin with. All you had to do was enforce your own rules. You think you are protecting the bettors by disqualifying winning horses because the driver gave the horse a one handed love tap. WAKE UP..

Mr. Rod Seiling I ask you in this time of desperate need to get up off your "Chair" and be our leader.

January 4, 2010 - 11:27 pmbottom line. As like always

bottom line. As like always this is not the first or last time this will happen in our sport.The only way to fix this is to allow the track to keep or make the simulcasting continue but the moneies from the slots taken away from both parties so they can learn that without the slots they both have nothibg.That should be the way to make the tracks do what is in the best interest of racing (ie.kawartha new paddock and in general more racing for the small track so purses don't go out of control)if the government takes the money away from the tracks then they will be more willing to listen.Now with the money still coming in from slots they have the best of both worlds, slot money and no racing which means no overhead.This is why most tracks don't want to race as often as they once did with the exception of WEG,Western fair and Grand river.

January 4, 2010 - 10:22 pmI used to love this game,

I used to love this game, but now it's like watching somebody being kept alive with tubes and oxygen. The tracks and horsepeople are both addicted to the government teat, neither has the slightest interest in catering to the player. Pull the plug, put the slots into churches and Walmarts for all I care, and then maybe we'll see if the disparate parties could find the "common good" - Symbiosis. If not, then just let it die.

January 4, 2010 - 9:01 pmHope the subjects are paying

ron francis SAID...

Hope the subjects are paying attention, here, Rod. While racing people are throwing up their hands begging for help, they refuse to help themselves. It always
has been, and seemingly always will be, "an all for me industry". What is left of it.
Remember Quebec bettors contributed $130 million last year. Out of sight, out of reach,
increasingly out of mind. Don't be surprised that when inter-track wagering returns,
the handle will be cut in half or worse. The "slots" windfall has created a
welfare entitlement mentality on all sides. Keep it up, and Ontario county roads will be littered by unemployed racing people kicking stones in the ditch, and wishing they had one more chance.

January 4, 2010 - 8:33 pmThis is a problem that can

This is a problem that can be easily resolved, with leadership skills.

January 4, 2010 - 4:53 pmI just will echo these wise

David aziz SAID...

I just will echo these wise words! All parties (and including for a large part the Standardbred part of the WEG!!) long ago forgot that the customer is THE BOSS! I cannot remember the last time any racetrack asked for my suggestion or my opinion on what I liked or what I disliked! To all parties at Hiawatha and at Sudbury: SMARTEN UP FAST!

January 4, 2010 - 4:26 pmHere we go again - we've

Randy Young SAID...

Here we go again - we've gone through this bull way too many times in Northern Ontario - due to Sudbury Downs inability to negotiate contracts.
They refuse to provide account wagering or access to 20 cent wagers - their simulcast signals are interupted on a regular basis because they refuse to upgarde their satelites - and now yet another contract dispute.
The recommended changes resulting from the CPMA's Framework Review were supposed to fix all this ! Unfortunately that process started back in 2006 and it's still tied up in government red tape !
It's no wonder the Harness Racing industry is in such BAD shape.


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