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Burgess: Plan "A Very Sad Result"

Published: October 16, 2013 10:35 am ET

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"I respect Ms. Wynne's energy and enthusiasm and her seemingly sincere attempt to save racing in Ontario. However, with this new plan she has failed abjectly unless there is another shoe to drop."

In a letter issued to Trot Insider, 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.

Burgess' letter appears in its entirety below.


Overall impression.

A very sad result. I respect Ms. Wynne's energy and enthusiasm and her seemingly sincere attempt to save racing in Ontario. However, with this new plan she has failed abjectly unless there is another shoe to drop. The jobs and horses are irretrievably gone as are her hopes of prevailing with the rural electors of Ontario. Unfortunately Ontario's proud traditions in one of the few sports in which we excel are also gone.

Ms. Wynne was failed and miserably betrayed by the Panel and by her political advisors. As I have argued from the very beginning, the Panel and Finance had absolutely no racing or historical background and did not appreciate our help or advice in trying to reach a fair and equitable solution to the tragic mess that is now Ontario racing and breeding.

(The only potentially positive and enlightening comment in the Report concerns the steps to closely integrate the widespread sale and distribution of our racing product with efforts to be announced by the OLG. This announcement is eagerly awaited).

HOWEVER, INTENTIONALLY OR OTHERWISE, THE PANEL HAS NOW MANOEUVRED OUR HORSEMEN AND OUR BREEDERS INTO BECOMING SUPPLICANTS FOR A DWINDLING AND COMPLETELY INADEQUATE SUBSIDY. This dependence on subsidies is both morally and intellectually corrupt and cynical. THEY WILL NOT WORK IN EITHER THE SHORT OR LONG TERM.

THERE ARE TWO MAIN FACTS THAT THE LIBERAL GOVERNMENT DID NOT CONSIDER.

1. From the beginning racing and the OLG were partners in the bonanza created by the introduction of slot machines in Ontario throwing off $1.4 Billion yearly. Every dollar earned from slots then and NOW is earned at a racetrack housing slot machines. Due to constantly increasing zoning restrictions the slot machines cannot be moved by the Province so as to eliminate racing's continuing involvement. It is obvious to everyone that Horsemen and Breeders should continue to retain a meaningful percentage of these partnership revenues. In addition, studies show that the very co-existence of racing operating when slot machines operate increases gross slot revenues by up to 20%. We should also be compensated for this.

2. It is acknowledged by everyone that the original agreements did not contain normal and proper controls and transparency regarding the manner in which racetrack operators and/or owners disbursed their original share of the slot funds. However, I understand this mistake has now been rectified in the "new" agreements now signed by the Province with each of the 15 individual track owners and operators still hosting slots. Likewise, our other original partner, the 15 hosting municipalities have also reached "new" agreements with the Province for essentially the same 5% that they received in their original agreements.

ONLY the horsemen and breeders do not have "new" agreements for their 10% share.

Horsemen and Breeders do not require new controls and transparency as I understand that each and every nickel distributed to horsemen and breeders from their original 10% share under the original agreements has been fully accounted for to the complete satisfaction of Finance. These funds all went to pay overnight and stake purses. These purses sustained and were fully responsible for providing the 9,000 jobs that the Province has lost to date. These jobs will not come back, if at all, until competitive purses and racing opportunities are restored in a proper partnership arrangement.

Robert B. Burgess, Q.C.


(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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