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Responses To Ontario’s Five-Year Plan

Published: October 11, 2013 2:57 pm ET

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Responses to the five-year transitional plan for the Ontario Horse racing industry are continuing to be issued. The Standardbred Breeders of Ontario (SBOA) have released a response as well as Woodbine Entertainment Group, the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association, the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corp. and the Ontario NDP Party.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced the plan on Friday morning at Grand River Raceway. To view the plan, click here. To read Premier Wynne’s comments on the plan, click here.

The OLG’s response came from its president and CEO, Rod Phillips.

An excerpt from Phillips’ response is as follows:

“We appreciate the Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel's leadership on the development of the five-year plan that will help ensure a vibrant and sustainable horse racing sector in Ontario. OLG will commit the necessary resources to implement and execute the government's plan.”

The contents of the ORC response to the five-year plan appear below.


Statement from OLG President and CEO Rod Phillips, RE: Ontario's five-year plan for a sustainable horse racing industry


The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) will continue to work with the Ontario government and the horse racing sector to integrate horse racing into the provincial gaming strategy.

We appreciate the Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel's leadership on the development of the five-year plan that will help ensure a vibrant and sustainable horse racing sector in Ontario. OLG will commit the necessary resources to implement and execute the government's plan.

OLG's modernization will be fully implemented in 2017-18. A modern OLG will help create thousands of jobs and drive more than $3 billion in capital investments across Ontario. It will also enable OLG to generate additional revenue to help fund provincial priorities such as hospitals and municipal infrastructure.


The Woodbine Entertainment Group also issued a response on Friday.

In part, WEG President and CEO Nick Eaves stated:

“WEG is particularly supportive of the Panel’s recommendation that maximizing the potential of racetracks as gaming centres, including added gaming options, is a top priority for an integrated relationship between horse racing and the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation (OLG). WEG has long been of the view that expanded gaming at racetracks such as Woodbine and Mohawk is important to ensuring the sustainability of horse racing and the thousands of jobs it supports in Ontario.”

The contents of the WEG response appear below.


Woodbine Entertainment Group responds to the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel’s Five-Year Plan


Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG), Canada’s largest horse racing company and owner and operator of Woodbine and Mohawk racetracks, today issued the following statement from Nick Eaves, president and CEO, in response to the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel’s Five-Year Plan:

“Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) thanks Premier Wynne and the Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel for their hard work and commitment during the development of the Five-Year Plan, ‘Building a Sustainable Future Together.’ We are encouraged by the plan and support its vision of a new transitional relationship between government and the horse racing industry. WEG believes that the Plan’s general principles will lay a strong foundation for the long-term sustainability of horse racing in Ontario.

“WEG is particularly supportive of the Panel’s recommendation that maximizing the potential of racetracks as gaming centres, including added gaming options, is a top priority for an integrated relationship between horse racing and the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation (OLG). WEG has long been of the view that expanded gaming at racetracks such as Woodbine and Mohawk is important to ensuring the sustainability of horse racing and the thousands of jobs it supports in Ontario. We agree with the Panel that substantial benefits to the province and to the industry can be realized by integrating expanded racetrack gaming into the provincial gaming strategy.

“Many of the Plan’s implementation details require further understanding and discussion, and its successful implementation will require much hard work from all parties. WEG believes such effort is absolutely essential, and we are committed to working with our government and industry partners to turn the Panel’s blueprint into reality."


Lambton-Kent-Middlesex PC MPP Monte McNaughton issued a response on Friday. In his response, McNaughton highlighted that local tracks Dresden Raceway, Hiawatha Horse Park and Woodstock Raceway did not receive positive news under the new plan.

“It’s upsetting that Kathleen Wynne has decided to squeeze out tracks like Dresden, Hiawatha and Woodstock. With today’s announcement we are looking at thousands of job losses throughout southwestern Ontario and in Dresden, Sarnia and Woodstock specifically,” said McNaughton.

The contents of McNaughton’s release appear below.


Wynne Deals Dresden, Hiawatha & Woodstock Racetracks Final Blow

Lambton-Kent-Middlesex PC MPP Saddened by Horse Announcement; Pending Job Losses


Today, the Ontario government rolled out a band-aid solution to the horse racing crisis occurring throughout rural Ontario. Premier Wynne’s plan for horse racing does not include a future for the historic Dresden Raceway, Sarnia’s Hiawatha Horse Park or the Woodstock Raceway.

“Let’s be clear, the government’s decision to end the successful Slots at Racetrack Program was done without a plan and has put up to 60,000 jobs at risk throughout Ontario, including here in my riding,” said McNaughton. “Kathleen Wynne was at the cabinet table when the decisions to devastate the horse racing industry were made. Today’s announcement is nothing more than a clear sign of pre-election desperation on her part.”

In years previous, Ontario has had up to 18 tracks across the province, including smaller tracks like the Dresden Raceway. Under Wynne’s plan, this will shrink to just nine tracks.

“It’s upsetting that Kathleen Wynne has decided to squeeze out tracks like Dresden, Hiawatha and Woodstock. With today’s announcement we are looking at thousands of job losses throughout southwestern Ontario and in Dresden, Sarnia and Woodstock specifically,” said McNaughton.

The nine tracks that will comprise Ontario’s horse racing industry will be Clinton Raceway, Flamboro Downs, Georgian Downs, Grand River Raceway, Hanover Raceway, Mohawk Raceway, The Raceway at the Western Fair District, Woodbine Racetrack and a quarter horse facility Ajax Downs.

“After reading the report released today, it’s my understanding that Dresden, Hiawatha and Woodstock are done,” summarized McNaughton. “This is a devastating day for the horse racing industry and for all of southwestern Ontario. The people of Dresden deserve better.”

McNaughton went on to point out that the Ontario PC Party has had a plan all along to help save Dresden, Hiawatha and the entire horseracing industry across the province. The Ontario PC plan can be found at www.OntarioPC.com/white-papers.


The Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association issued a response on Friday.

Part of the response stated that, ‘OHRIA would like to thank the Premier for her understanding of the economic importance of the horse racing and breeding industry and her commitment to integrating the horse racing industry into the Province’s overall gaming strategy.’

OHRIA’s Sue Leslie was quoting in the response, stating that there is still much work to be done. One of Leslie’s comments appears below.

“Looking back on where the industry was in negotiations this time last year, great progress has been made working with Premier Wynne and the Horse Racing Transition Panel. However there are still many aspects of the report which need further dialogue and clarification especially in relation to grassroots racing, the survival of racing at Fort Erie Race Track and securing the necessary investment to ensure the breeding industry survives its severe decline.”

The contents of the OHRIA response appear below.


OHRIA Thanks Premier and the Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel for their Efforts


At a press conference earlier today, Premier Kathleen Wynne, in her role of Minister of Agriculture, announced a five year strategic plan and details of the funding for the Horse Racing and Breeding Industry in Ontario. The plan is outlined in the Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel’s report, Building a Sustainable Future Together: Ontario’s Five-Year Horse Racing Partnership, released today.

The Plan includes $80 million a year in funding for the industry to support 900 race dates along with an allotment for rent paid by OLG for racetracks that operate slot machines for the next five years beginning in 2014.

OHRIA would like to thank the Premier for her understanding of the economic importance of the horse racing and breeding industry and her commitment to integrating the horse racing industry into the Province’s overall gaming strategy.

OHRIA recognizes the efforts of the Horse Racing Transition Panel to incorporate the needs of the horse racing and breeding industry into this Plan while adhering to the requests by Government to create a sustainable industry which is accountable and transparent.

OHRIA would also like to congratulate Elmer Buchanan on his appointment to Chair of the ORC and looks forward to a continued meaningful working relationship in his new position within the industry.

While there are many positives to come out of the report, Sue Leslie stressed that much more work remains to be done especially surrounding the Standardbred grassroots racing and Thoroughbred racing at Fort Erie Racetrack.

“It has been a very difficult couple of years for the horse racing industry,” commented Sue Leslie, President and Chair of OHRIA, “Our industry has certainly suffered while negotiations to get to where we are today have taken place.

“Looking back on where the industry was in negotiations this time last year, great progress has been made working with Premier Wynne and the Horse Racing Transition Panel. However there are still many aspects of the report which need further dialogue and clarification especially in relation to grassroots racing, the survival of racing at Fort Erie Race Track and securing the necessary investment to ensure the breeding industry survives its severe decline.”

OHRIA plans to continue to work with John Snobelen, leading the OLR, the ORC, OMAFRA and the Premier’s office to work through the remaining industry issues and to achieve clarification on the specifics of how horse racing and breeding will be integrated into the OLG Modernization plan. We are encouraged that John Wilkinson, a member of the Horse Racing Transition Panel, will now play a pivotal role in assisting in the integration process.

The OHRIA Board of Directors will be reviewing the report further within the next few days and will be available for consultation with industry participants by contacting OHRIA at [email protected] or 416-679-0741.


The Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association (SBOA) issued a response on Saturday, noting its ongoing concerns for the province's Standardbred breeding industry.

An excerpt from the SBOA's response is as follows.

"For many breeders the financial losses that they have incurred over the past 18 months have been so substantial that it is difficult, if not impossible, for them to survive to a point where the industry can see it's way through to a five-year plan. In order for success and sustainability to once again be achieved by Ontario’s Standardbred breeders in the long-term, the Government must be willing to increase HIP funding in the short-term."

The complete response from the SBOA appears below.


SBOA Responds To Five-Year Plan


The Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association (SBOA) continues to have grave concerns for the future of Ontario’s Standardbred breeding industry. The release of the Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel’s five-year plan fails to address the immediate needs of Ontario’s breeding sector.

After having experienced record losses in 2012 and again this season, Ontario’s Standardbred breeders require a much stronger commitment from our current Government in order to transition to long-term sustainability. An increase in HIP funding in the short-term is critical to the viability of Ontario’s Standardbred breeding industry.

The Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel states in their five-year plan that with the reduction of race opportunities in Ontario, an oversupply of yearlings has been created in 2013. The Panel does not acknowledge in its report that this oversupply has been created due to the Government’s ill-planned decision to end the mutually beneficial partnership of the Slots-At-Racetracks Program. Ontario’s Standardbred breeders have not been given adequate time to restructure their operations in order to align with the reduction in race opportunities, therefore resulting in a detrimental effect on yearling prices.

The Transition Panel’s assumption that yearling prices should be positively affected in 2014-2019 due to a likely undersupply of yearlings provides little confidence to Ontario’s Standardbred breeders in the short-term. The Ontario Sires Stakes will not experience the full effects of a reduced number of eligible participants due to the ending of SARP until 2016.

For many breeders the financial losses that they have incurred over the past 18 months have been so substantial that it is difficult, if not impossible, for them to survive to a point where the industry can see it's way through to a five-year plan. In order for success and sustainability to once again be achieved by Ontario’s Standardbred breeders in the long-term, the Government must be willing to increase HIP funding in the short-term.


On Tuesday, October 15, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath attended the last races of the season at Fort Erie Race Track.

The NDP later issued a press release regarding the newly-announced five-year plan for Ontario horse racing.

An excerpt of the release appears below.

Horwath said that if this government was truly interested in creating jobs then it would stand by track workers and horse people in Fort Erie, and in track communities across the province like Ajax, Peterborough, Sarnia, Sudbury, Dresden, Belleville, Ottawa, Woodstock and Leamington.

The contents of the release appear below.


Horse Racing Plan Can’t Leave Fort Erie in the Dust: Horwath


New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath was in Niagara today (Tuesday, October 15) to attend the last races of the season at Fort Erie Race Track. She was joined by NDP horse racing advocate Taras Natyshak. From a grandstand packed with horse racing fans, Horwath rejected Kathleen Wynne’s view that there’s no future for the Fort Erie Race Track.

“Fort Erie Race Track is a big part of Ontario’s history and an important part of the local economy. We can’t let it disappear,” said Horwath. “By promising ‘a different kind of future’ for the Fort Erie Race Track, the Premier is gambling with the economic future of Fort Erie and the entire region. And by turning her back on horse racing at the historic Fort Erie Race Track Kathleen Wynne is turning her back on the people of Niagara.”

Horwath said that if this government was truly interested in creating jobs then it would stand by track workers and horse people in Fort Erie, and in track communities across the province like Ajax, Peterborough, Sarnia, Sudbury, Dresden, Belleville, Ottawa, Woodstock and Leamington. She noted that when cuts were initially announced in 2011, New Democrats were able to deliver transitional support for horse racing families, and since then New Democrats have been fighting to re-instate the profit-sharing Slots at Racetracks Program.

“The Premier says she wants to respect the history and culture of Ontario, but she’s choking off a track that’s been running races for 116 seasons. The Premier claims she wants to make horse racing ‘sustainable,’ but she’s putting families out of work in Fort Erie” said Horwath.

“That’s not respect. And that’s not sustainable for the people of Niagara” said Horwath.


OHHA Comments on the Five-Year Partnership Plan as presented to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food by the Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel


On Wednesday, October 16, the Ontario Harness Horse Association issued its response to the recently announced five-year plan for the province’s horse racing industry.

The release states that OHHA “feels encouraged by the suggested changes to the Ontario Racing Commission” and that it feels strongly “that with the Panel’s recommendations a better and more mutually supportive relationship will be achieved” between the ORC and Ontario horsepeople.

The release also states that “OHHA fully supports the Panel’s suggestion to create one standardbred horsepersons’ group for the alliance tracks to represent all licensed members.”

To view the contents of the OHHA release, click here.


Robert Burgess's Letter on Ontario Horse Racing's Five-Year-Plan


In a letter issued Wednesday, Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Famer Robert Burgess has weighed in on the five-year-plan for Ontario's horse racing industry released Friday by Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel.

To read Burgess' letter, click here.


(Note - In an effort to consolidate comments on topics, if you wish to voice your opinion on the five-year plan, please do so by clicking here.)


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