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Long-Term Funding For Ontario?

Published: October 13, 2016 1:56 pm ET

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Multiple outlets have reported that a new funding model has been proposed by Ontario Racing for the provincial horse racing industry. According to the proposal, the duration of the plan could last as long as 17 years and funding could reach a total of $1.6 billion.

An article by the National Post states that the Ontario Government is currently mulling the proposal, according to a draft plan by Ontario Racing.

“This is extraordinary in terms of a government commitment both in terms of time and in terms of money,” Ontario Racing Executive Director Rob Cook told the National Post. “What’s really launching today is a starting point, it’s not an end point.”

An item by Horse Canada states that, under the proposal, the deal would begin after the current deal with the provincial government finishes in 2021. The proposed deal states that $93.4-million in annual funding would come to the industry over the course of a seven-year term. After that, the proposal calls for a pair of five-year deals to be available, given that performance measures and contract compliance are met.

The Ontario horse racing industry will have the chance to discuss the proposed framework, as the industry will be asked for its input during a series of public consultation sessions that will be hosted by Ontario Racing during November.

The key feature of the proposed framework is the creation of a new Racetrack Alliance which would set all race dates and purses. All Ontario racetracks that conduct live racing would be invited to be part of the new alliance which would be governed by a not-for-profit corporation in conjunction with the Woodbine Entertainment Group. All tracks who want to receive subsidies must join the alliance.

The board of the Racetrack Alliance would be comprised of representatives from all levels and disciplines of racing, and would be formed with the support of Ontario Racing. While it would be stipulated that WEG would not have a majority of the directors, certain material decisions would require approval of WEG nominees. The full definition of what the material decisions might be are not yet available, but would include provisions so that WEG could not be removed from the board, for example.

To receive funding, the Racetrack Alliance would enter into an agreement with OLG who would release the funds to WEG which would be responsible for all management of administration. WEG would also be provided $2 million from the fund to cover administration fees including race office staff, purse management, tote operations, and settlements.

To qualify for continued funding and to ensure accountability, the Racing Alliance would be responsible for meeting performance measures including:

  • Wagering targets

  • Cost allocation agreements to ensure shared administrative efficiencies for racetracks

  • Annual business plans from all tracks

  • Pari-mutuel wagering revenue sharing agreement

  • Reporting requirements to OLG, including five-year strategic plans

Based on the feedback provided at the industry consultations, OR will assemble a report on behalf of the industry that will be made public and will be submitted to the OLG.

Should the industry accept the proposal, it is anticipated that the OLG would submit the commercial agreement to the Minister of Finance who would then seek funding approval from the Ontario Government. If the concept is rejected, the newly elected board of OR will be required to develop a new proposal for the industry’s consideration.

A statement from Ontario’s Finance Ministry states that the provincial government “is committed to the sustainability of the horse racing industry and supporting the communities that depend on it. That’s why in the 2016 budget, we extended the Horse Racing Partnership Fund to 2021 and have tasked OLG to engage the industry on a longer-term funding arrangement.”

Industry Long Term Funding Outreach Plan – 2016 – SUBJECT TO CHANGE

  • Wednesday, October 19 - 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. - Long Term Funding Webcast (available online)

  • Monday, October 31 - 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. - Toronto (Location TBD)

  • Tuesday, November 1 - 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. - Hamilton (Flamboro Downs)

  • Wednesday, November 9 - 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. - (Hiawatha Horse Park)

  • Sunday, November 13 - 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. - London (Western Fair Raceway)

  • Wednesday, November 16 - 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. - Ottawa (Rideau Carleton Raceway)

  • Saturday, November 19 - 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. - Port Perry (Location TBD)

  • Tuesday, November 22 - 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. - Milton (Mohawk Racetrack)

Ontario Racing issued a press release on the subject. The contents of release appear below.

Ontario Racing Launches Consultations on Proposed Longer-Term Funding for Horse Racing

Ontario Racing (OR), the new industry association for horse racing in Ontario, is pleased to announce that consultations have begun regarding a proposed longer-term funding framework and agreement for the industry beyond 2021. This framework, subject to government approval, will be presented to the industry for feedback. If approved, this framework will provide the industry as a whole – from owners, trainers and breeders to racetrack operators – with the certainty they need to make investments in their businesses.

OR’s primary objective, to this point, has been to engage directly with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and the government to provide input to the development of a roadmap to sustainable funding for the industry. Now, OR’s focus will shift towards engagement with the industry as a whole to garner feedback on this proposed framework.

This proposed framework is based on key principles including:

  • A new racetrack alliance: all Ontario racetracks that conduct live racing will be invited to create a new alliance. It is proposed that Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) will serve as the administrator of this new alliance.

  • Longer-term, predictable funding: Ontario’s horseracing industry can invest in their businesses beyond 2021.

  • Ongoing accountability and transparency: decision-making based on evidence and agreed upon success indicators.

  • Industry leadership: racetrack business plans, race dates, purse levels will be aligned across racetracks for a coordinated approach. Ontario Racing will play a key industry leadership role in the future.

Next steps include in addition to an introductory webinar, widespread ‘in person’ conversations with the industry about these principles, across Ontario. Sessions will take place in every region of the province that has horseracing, throughout the month of November. Dates and locations will be posted on the OR website, at Industry participants can also provide feedback by answering consultation questions online on the Ontario Racing website.

Ontario Racing will collate feedback from the industry, and this perspective will inform recommendations to government.

(With files from the National Post and Horse Canada)

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