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First Ontario Racing Consultation

Published: October 31, 2016 5:47 pm ET

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The first Ontario Racing in-person consultation session was held on Monday afternoon (October 31) at the Holiday Inn International in Etobicoke, Ont.

An audience of approximately 50 people attended the Monday session, which took place across from Pearson International Airport. The attendees included horsepeople, breeders, owners and representatives from Ontario Racing, Ontario Lottery and Gaming and Woodbine Entertainment Group.

"We take these sessions seriously," said Rob Cook, Executive Director of Ontario Racing. "We are here to listen and represent your views as much as possible."

Cook provided a 20-minute overview of the framework currently being discussed for the Ontario horse racing industry. That was followed by 90 minutes of open comments and questions.

The dialogue brought up numerous viewpoints and perspectives, with feedback and answers coming primarily from Cook. Cal Bricker, the Senior Vice President of Horse Racing for the OLG, also answered questions.

When asked about how breeders get a voice when the Racetrack Alliance "is making decisions," Cook said: "Everything the Alliance does is approved by Ontario Racing. Ontario Racing represents everyone else, including breeders. So when these issues come to Ontario Racing, we'll evaluate things."

On the need for funding for breeders, Cook said, "We are reaching out to OMAFRA to confirm that enhanced HIP (Horse Improvement Program) is a part of that program."

When asked if racetracks will outnumber horsepeople on the OR board, Cook said: "I don't know that until the governance process is completed. But part of OR's mandate is to represent all sides of the industry."

On decisions of racetracks and the idea of eventual consolidation and race date analysis, Cook said: "We have $93.4 million. Picture that as the butter and we need to figure out what bread to spread it out on."

There were a number of questions about the smaller tracks and how much representation Woodbine Entertainment Group has.

"Presumably decisions are made by the Alliance and that includes representation by all tracks," said Cook. "The whole system as it's conceived is to make sure there are counterbalances and balance."

The idea of having an RFP to decide what company or organization handles the administration of the program was raised.

"That's an interesting thought we'll put down," Cook said.

It was raised that the "three breeds -one voice" slogan of OR may not accurately address the issues that are different across breeds and Cook was asked if he is confident that OR has the resources and experience to recognize the issues of the industry."

"We have two components of OR," he said. "We have professional staff and the industry knowledge comes through our Board. I am comfortable that we can move this forward."

Bricker addressed the OLG's role in the industry and whether or not new lottery products are a future possibility. "We're going to try to do what we can to grow the racing business and if we have products that can help that, we will," said Bricker.

Bricker said the recent decision of the government not to modernize the lottery business may be a positive for horse racing.

"The game has changed. (with the modernization of the lottery program not moving forward)," Bricker said. "I can't guarantee anything as we just found this out in the last couple of weeks. I'd look at ways to build on the 93.4 million."

Other items that were mentioned in the dialogue include the need to recognize the desires of horse bettors, and the need for improved communications with the industry.

Ontario Racing has said that a report will be issued following the industry consultations.

A complete list of the consultation dates appears below (dates 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 (Holiday Inn International, in Etobicoke)

  • 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 (Golfer's Dream Golf Club, Scugog)

  • Tuesday, November 22 - 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. - Milton (Gambrel Barn, Country Heritage Park)

Industry participants can also provide feedback by answering consultation questions online on the Ontario Racing website.

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