Burgess Pens Letter To Auditor General

Published: October 22, 2012 11:33 am EDT

This past Friday, much respected standardbred breeder/owner Robert Burgess sent an open letter to MPP Jim McCarter, Ontario's Auditor General, and MPP John Milloy, Liberal House Leader, calling for the third reading of MPP Monte McNaughton's gaming referendum bill and a full review and audit of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming's controversial gaming modernization plan.

The contents of Burgess' letter appear below.

Dear Mr. McCarter:

Under the pretext that it was 'modernizing gaming' the directors and management of the OLG, a Crown agency, convinced Messrs. McGuinty and Duncan to completely destroy the standardbred racing and breeding industries in Ontario. This is a tragedy.

Since 2010 the principal directors of the OLG have been (like Mr. Dale Lastman, counsel to Mr. Larry Tanenbaum) and continue to be representatives of the land development business and friends and business associates of Mr. Paul Godfrey and Mr. Larry Tanenbaum. Even though the slots-at-racetracks program ('SARP') is world renowned and is a respected model for many other jurisdictions, Messrs. Godfrey and Duncan refused to allow even a single representative from racing to be a member of the nine-member OLG Board of Directors.

This blunt denial of representation for Ontario racing was made despite the fact that racing was by far OLG's most lucrative product (over 14 billions of dollars contributed to the Ontario treasury over the life of the SARP program) and the fact that the OLG charitable casinos consistently lost money.

In these circumstances, this Liberal Government had absolutely no mandate from the citizens of Ontario to destroy 55,000 jobs or to deprive the Ontario treasury of over a billion dollars of revenue annually.

This precipitate cancellation of the SARP program would appear, in my opinion, to have been designed only to assist friends and important contributors to the Liberal Party like Mr. Larry Tanenbaum in establishing a large bingo empire with slot like machines that pay him 47% of the proceeds. Incidentally, racing receives only 20% of the proceeds as the Government's partner under the SARP program they have so abruptly cancelled.

Please review and audit this peculiar situation that does not seem to exemplify good government by the people for the people.

Robert B. Burgess Q.C.



You know one thing mentioned in posts by people after this letter/article was posted that makes sense ? Horsemen, and I have an uncle and aunt in the business, what are you going to do for the betting man who is dedicated and comes out to the track to wager some money and be entertained if you get the slots money back ? What about 50/50 draws every race night ? What about giveaways happening more often than once a month ? What about better restaurant areas at tracks ? What about more options at tracks in terms of what we want to eat ? What about putting in chain fastfood restaurants in these facilities such as McDonalds, Taco Bell and stuff like that ? Look I don't have many ideas that are guaranteed to increase attendance in a huge way but ownership of the various tracks and the horsemen should be trying to do better by the public. Heck push for these racetracks to become sports books where we can bet horse racing and other sports. Pro Line from Sports Select by the OLC is horrid. It doesn't offer the gambler a good money line and there is no reason for it. We need sports books in Ontario like they have in Las Vegas.

Anyway yes I want horse racing to flourish in Ontario and worldwide but if you are given slot money back please remember the people who have come out for years when the situation for the sport was good or bad. Right now because of all that is going on I am not getting to bet on simulcast in Sarnia cuz they don't offer it now. I miss it. It was entertainment for me through til live racing opened up again and now simulcast is gone.

In reply to by Gleber

Very well stated, Mr. Leber. Senator Runciman's interview with Norm Borg indicates a few reasons why the racing industry is struggling. http://www.standardbredcanada.ca/news/10-25-12/runciman-wants-hear-you…
If the OLG was not trying to sabbotage the racing industry at every turn, perhaps it could provide a better product for the bettors. Godfrey has had a master plan to rid the province of racing and the SARP, thus eliminating the competition for his new pets---casinos and bingo parlours. His buddy (Larry Tanenbaum) has obviously had inside information about this for some time. This alone should be reason enough to investigate Paul Godfrey and the OLG.

Mr Yamakva has voiced an opinion and he shouldnt be discounted. We do have to make the product better but we need help doing it.

Mr. Yamakva talked about the days when the stands were full. Back then the only gambling in Ontario was horse racing. Since that time the government has become our main competitor for the gambling dollar. Every dollar spent on a lottery ticket or on Pro-line or now in Casinos is money that used to go to horse racing. So when the Conservatives realized this was going to put us out of business, they created the SARP. The venues themselves were in great locations so it was a win win.

I agree with Mr. Yamakva that we need to enhance our product. The smaller tracks do add value but unfortunately they don't look that pretty. Money has to be spent to make these venues less one dimensional. We can't just put lipstick on the pig, the pig has to make money. Right now if the SARP ends, Canadian horse racing ends and those of us with horses will stop spending money in Canada and go to the USA where racing is flourishing.

Mr. Yamakva (and other fans), you may not understand that most owners (not all) lose money in horse racing. Only the top 5 horses get a cheque in any race. That means half of us not only go home with no money, but we have to pay our trainers and those people who truck our horses to the track. To break even we have to earn about $50,000 per year per horse. Have a look in your program to see how many horses earn that much. Then realize that less than 20% of all horses actually make it to the track but it costs about $15,000 per horse to find out. The government would paint us a rich greedy horse owners. I can assure you most of us were rich before we sunk money into this business. It's a pretty expensive hobby.

Art Galleries, Museums and the Zoo are examples of businesses that get subsidies to stay afloat. There are people paid to produce crappy films and documentaries that nobody watches. The government gives grants and loans (often not repaid for 20 years) to people studying useless crap in Universities who don't get jobs. That costs billions. At least with the SARP program horse racing puts money back into the economy and there are 60,000 people employed who pay taxes.

So we are open to suggestions from the fans on how they would make money in our industry. Ironically, people pay as much as $300 a seat to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs (lose every year) but we had to stop charging $2 admission to draw a few hundred fans. People will spend hundreds on pay per view to watch a heavy weight card of boxing that might be over in one round.

Possibly the answer is to charge the networks lots of money to cover horse racing. We just don't have the drawing power of the professional sports. We can't compete with Hockey, Baseball, Basketball and certainly not the NFL. The money is all in advertising, ticket sales and merchandising. What people should be outraged at, is the fact that by watching those sports on TV, we pay double for everything we buy because of advertising costs. Be outraged that cable TV costs as much as it does. Be outraged that going to the movies costs what it does because an actor makes $15 million for a movie and a doctor won't make that much in his life.

Mr. Yamakva, I ask you as a fan, how much would you pay to watch horse racing? How would you make money in our business? I can tell you where we can save a million here or there but in the end it takes a budget of over $300 million a year to sustain our industry. That money has to be injected in at the start so we can generate the money into the economy afterwards.

Mr. Yamakva, if you do come up with great ideas, it will really be appreciated. 60,000 people will thank you.

Georg Leber-ICR Racing

Thank you for your insightful input, Mr. Yamakva. You are right. We do need to reinvent our product to be competitive with what the public wants. We have been far too complacent for far too long. Our grandstands are empty and the bettors have gone elsewhere for better return on their dollars. According to my 37 year old son who is a professional and is in all sorts of betting pools, racing is not a viable betting sport and is boring. Not one of his friends or business aquaintances (of which he has many) is interested in what we do. We have relied on the same folks for too long without seriously soliciting new business. The OLG does plenty of advertising for their slots, casinos and lotteries. Racing gets very little and is the same old thing time after time. Seeing as they are doing their best to destroy horse racing, we in the industry need to do something survive and prosper. We need inventive thinking. We also need the OLG to co-operate in new initiatives. Time to shape up!

Open Letter from us the racing fan.

Please, on behalf of all of us that like horse racing, and love it as a form of entertainment, read and listen to what many of us at the tracks, that are not owners, and not trainers, and have never met the likes, listen to what we are saying all around the circuit.

The program that you have been doing well off, has been touted as a success and a model respected world wide. You really need to look at this "success" that you speak of, and ask yourself, is it as successful as it could be? Not even close. Really, the whole thing, has only profited one over the long haul, and that is you the horse man. Us bettors, and fans, we really have not seen much over the 14 years. The pools are the same. Many facilities look the same as they have for the most part, if not aged. The on screen product has changed little, and the coverage of the sport, while people might think it has improved, you surely cant think it has considering the attendance at the tracks does not reflect the promotion that being on tv should have. Do you horseman realize, that you would be racing for unrealistically high purses and deserve it, if more of the money that is bet in the slots, was bet on your product? It would cut out the middle man, and go directly to you. The only way for that to happen, is to have more fans on site. Now, should you have more fans onsite, the money spent in the slot parlours, would also increase. WFR would be racing for WDB money. WDB would be racing for what the runners are racing for. Look at those purses. WOWWWWWWW wouldnt that be great?

Mr. Burgess has penned a terrific letter, that seems to have stopped short of saying, "we would like our slots deal returned, and will work with you, and help you, to return people to the facilities, that host these two gambling ventures".

Restoring the purses and what not, would only really benefit 55,000 out of a province of millions. 55,000 does seem like a lot of people, but consider, that is barely the population of Woodstock. Does not seem that big if you are looking at a population laden map. That being said, I am not wanting those people to suffer. I would love to see them prosper more, and the government get along with you people, but so far, you are not making your case. You are fighting this battle on your own really. If the Jays were to be told by the government to up and leave, I bet you would hear Toronto make the biggest stink ever. That is sorta being done to you, but Toronto as a whole, is not really hearing it. It is not that they are ignoring you, but the rally's and protests, are essentially horseman, the regular city folk, is walking by and seeing what is going on. Gambling is a hard sell to many people, and some how, you need to convince them, to help you. You might not like that, but its reality.

You are being given a massive wake up call, but all it appears to be doing, is forcing you to hit the snooze button harder, rather than realize you need to fix this before you can can go back to sleep comfortably.

If the horseman could go to the government and say, "listen, if we do things differently, we can make your slots, pay MUCH more than they are now, which is beneficial to you, and to the city, to the horseman, and to the racing fan." How can that be achieved? Well, many many options exist. Better promotions, better communication between the industry and the press/media. Hell, just 20 years ago, there was house hold names, John Campbell would have been recognized by many non-racing fans. Herve Fillion was a legend. Is there any of that today? Nope. There is no name in the business that is catching enough flair to get a mention on TSN. EVER !!!!! Your big races, are not even covered on Sportscenter. You have horses racing for more than a few Triple Crown races, but at least the replay of the stretch drive and the story building up to it, gets a sniff. Something needs to be figured out. A weekly show on TSN? It NEEDS to be done. Take a look at how much betting information, goes across the bottom of the Score, for football, NCAA, hockey. The money line, the pt spread, the over-under. There is enough gambling action going, that these networks post this information. That means the gamblers are there. But other than a show that is on a Monday night.... opposite Monday Night football for 17 weeks a year, and the odd major race broadcast, what does the broadcasting really look like? Its weak. The coverage sucks. Hell, in London, they used to show the stretch drive of the feature on the news, but now, there has not been a reporter there in years.

This is just one of the many things that needs to be addressed. With status quo, the fight does not appear to be successful. Changing government leaders might lead to disappointment anyways. Its no guarantee. Someone needs unbiased or open minded needs to lead the horseman charge here, and step up and show the horseman, the bettor is the key to your fight. That is the ammo that you can take to these government people.

Even if you do not listen to a word I have said, remember this, you will have no choice but to listen come March 2013.

Your Truly,
Racing Fan with a heart for the horses.

Finally the Standardbred Horsemen have a spokesperson.If Hanover is an example of the slots new agreement, then where is this taking the smaller tracks? To me .5 percent additional slot revenue is a SELLOUT! The OLG needs to be taken to court Mr. Burgess with a statement of claim ?.CLASS ACTION SUIT...55,000 times ten dollars ( IN TRUST ) should be enough to find a lawyer to take on Godfrey ? IF we take on these three opponents LIBERAL GOVT. OLG. And Foreign Management ( the enemy) then we can win the war of 2012 .....This action would require co-operation of both opposition parties and could be part of their election platforms? Until then keep the pressure on the people and newspapers in the GTA...Are you willing to chip in ten bucks? It's a good bet!


Mr. Burgess, while your letter addressed the fact you want slots money to go bathorseman, your letter neglects to show what the horse racing industry is going to do to better itself. Hypothetically, should things go bnormal, and you horseman get your slot money, the horse gamblers will be getting screwed. You horseman have no incentive to make the product better for us gamblers. We will be stuck with the same product that has been losing racing fans galore. 1990...... To today, the poolsare basically the same, and that is with more off track from around the province as more area picks up these b track stimulating. There is no incentive to go to live racing any more.

Before anyone says "what about the crowds on Breeders day, or plate day or industry day", big whoop. In the same week, Western Fair, and Rcr, raced in front of less than 50 people in the stands. Both tracks had one night eac week where the purses exceeded the money wagered. You want he money to help the breeders and horseman, how about getting all these people that are complaining to the government on this site, to personally invite 5 friends to the track on specific day and have them bet on your races. Have your people here sit and take notes about the struggles new fans have reading. Programs, or understanding why odds change, or why the horse they bet had to pull to the side cause he was off stride?

Live nights have more people in the slot parlors rather than watching the races. And the tone around here seems to make it seem ok, as long as the slots get played the horseman get paid...... I have yet to see a horseman talk about filling the stands.

While were considering this, we must make sure Andrea Horwath and Tim Hudak are on board with this action. Be surprised if one Liberal candidate is elected in the upcoming election. They have disappointed young and old alike with all their wrong headed decisions. Just thinking out loud. Bruce T. Winning

Well done Mr. Burgess. Articulate and accurate. These sleeze-balls can be tripped up, in their masterplan.

Wondering if a copy of this letter shouldn't go to the Integrity commission, the R.C.M.P. and the O.P.P.?

BRAVO, Mr. Burgess, There has been no doubt in my mind that this OLG modernization? has had a stench from the beginning of their unrelenting attack on the horseracing Industry! If you haven*t smelled it, I suggest a nose specialist as the stench is overwhelming! I must admit the OLG hierarchy on behalf of Mr. Tanenbaum and the U. S. casino based lobbyists have enjoyed the collusion of the MINORITY liberal government to the detriment of all Ontario taxpayers! Ontario has lost most of our manufacturing jobs to other markets which will never return, so why would any government continue to destroy the WORLD CLASS horseracing industry/ which is labor intensive[55,000] JOBS,JOBS,JOBS. This industry does nothing but make serious money for the government through it*s SARP to the tune of 1 billion plus dollars each and every year. Value for money indeed! What*s the payoff to the government? Because this outrage does nothing for the taxpayers bottom line except add more red ink we can*t afford! In my world truth will overcome bullies and liars every time!

Once again, THANK YOU, Bob! A very eloquent, yet to the point accounting of this situation. Have forwarded this article, including comments to [email protected] as well as [email protected], as I have with several previous articles, in hopes that someone will finally have enough sense to see what is going on in the house!

My comments sent with the e-mails are below:
The attached letter written by Mr. Robert Burgess, QC, says it all! Why can't we get anyone to further investigate this senseless decision made by this Liberal Government to end a very lucrative financial partnership, Slots-at-Racetracks, in which the Provincial Coffers earn 75% in revenue annually in favour of slots in Mr. Tanenbaum's Bingo Halls, allowing him to retain 47%, and inviting American Casino conglomerates to come to Ontario and take over the Gambling Industry. Are the Liberal supporters so strong and powerful here in Ontario, that everyone is afraid to question them!! If that is the case and they are allowed to continue running roughshod over the people of this province, then where does it all end. Before Mr. McGuinty cut and ran when backed into a corner in question period, he very adamently stated even if Mr. McNaughton's bill on referendums did become law, his Government would not support referendums in Municipalities on Gambling and Casinos! In other words, Mr. McGuinty considered himself and his Liberal Party MPPs, above the law! Now just what does that tell us! Ontario has become a dictatorship under Dalton McGuinty and Dwight Duncan, with regard to Paul Godfrey and the OLG business!

I wish to confirm to all horsemen that a copy of my above email to Mr. McCarter was delivered directly to Paul Godfrey's personal email address.

Mr. Burgess has been an active participant in the discussions with OMAFRA even to the point that he authored a comprehensive plan to save our industry. He is to be applauded for his efforts.

My real concern is that he is now writing this letter. Reading between the lines, it would appear that Mr. Burgess has lost faith that the OMAFRA panel is going to deliver a worthwhile plan to save our industry.

Mr. Burgess would be an excellent leader to go forward and take on the OLG. I would put my support behind him which includes money if needed. I don't want to speak for or put Mr. Burgess on the spot, but if he offers we should jump at the chance to work with him.

Personally I don't think the Auditor General's office ever does anything about anything. I understand their intended role but if a government doesnt listen to them then they are as effective as cough syrup fighting cancer. In this case the Cancer is the OLG.

Georg Leber-ICR Racing

Thank you, thank you, thank you Mr. Burgess. This particular aspect of this entire fiasco has been something that I have been extremely concerned about and questioned since the start. I pointed out the connection between Mr. Godfrey and Mr. Tanenbaum to the Ombudsman's office on several occasions and suggested that it be investigated as a matter of collusion. Hopefully, your letter will prompt that investigation.