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Second Ontario Racing Consultation

Published: November 1, 2016 8:55 pm ET

Last Comment: November 3, 2016 12:03 pm ET | 2 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

The second of Ontario Racing's information sessions took place on Tuesday afternoon at Flamboro Downs to discuss and shape a framework for a long-term funding model with the province.

After OR's executive director Rob Cook discussed the framework, a fair number of solid questions emerged from the group of approximately 50 people in attendance with all three breeds represented and vocal.

Some of the questions and comments mirrored the discussion from Monday. The group issued concerns over OR board governance and representation, especially when the board that previously served OHRIA had its own well-documented issues of conflict.

"The current Board structure is clearly a duplication of OHRIA," said Cook, "and I don't think there's any illusion about what some of the challenges are with that and some of the conflicts that exist within that."

Cook said that issues were coming to the previous OR Board, like the long-term funding agreement, and the organization was asked to be engaged by government -- with a board of three directors, of which John Snobelen was the lead director.

"Maybe a lot of you here would recognize John as a key industry person but I think others thought there was a need for more industry representation. So that was the rationale to bring OHRIA over," said Cook. "But clearly at the time they were brought over they were deemed interim. At the time they were brought over a committee was put into place to develop a new governance structure that will have a different membership...I would presume, I can't predict what they're going to do.

"I think our goal, certainly as staff they now have a larger contingent of staff to support that board. Hopefully the direction and the outcomes of the Board are reflective of broad industry interest. From my perspective as executive director and my staff is to ensure that the board gets advised about decisions and issues with a broad industry perspective."

Suggestions from the audience included more industry say/input on board representation, possibly putting that representation to an industry-wide vote.

Within the Alliance framework, concerns were voiced over track inclusion. Cook confirmed that all of Ontario's tracks would be permitted to join provided they don't have any overarching legal or financial issues that would preclude them from joining.

"The concept in this proposal is that every track conducting live racing will be part of the Alliance, they will have the option to join the Alliance but clearly if you choose not to join the Alliance you won't be eligible for any government money. One TPA to the Alliance. If a track wants a piece of that they have to be part of the Alliance.

"Will there be conditions on joining? There probably will be," continued Cook. "Some of those conditions will be rational ones...basic things that you would have to meet a test of to be in the Alliance."

When asked if those tests would include a certain amount of handle on a live card or per race, Cook refuted those conditions but noted that the exact criteria haven't been established yet.

"It's not about how much business you do or you don't," Cook stated. "The hard decisions will eventually happen when we go 'how does all the money get distributed? Is there more money to distribute? Is it the same amount? And who gets it?' So there's still more to come.

"We're operating in a space right now, when you look forward to this Alliance being in place and the money being we even know who's going to be running races then? We have OLG modernization happening...what happens if tracks lose their slots? Are they going to continue to operate or won't they? So we don't even really know what the landscape looks like to start predicting who might fall out of the Alliance, and who might not and how the money's going to be distributed.

"This proposal sets a framework, it's a concept. There's still lots to come related to it."

Questions concerning the amount of money available to the industry, and whether or not that amount is enough to sustain the industry were put forth. The consensus from the gathered horsepeople was the amount is not enough.

"The money is $93 million right now. It may be 100 if the enhanced HIP program continues. But the goal of all of this is not to try to sustain the industry on that amount of money either. This is one piece, the government contribution is one piece. So there's new product development that we're talking to OLG about again, it's been talked about for a number of years. It all gets to integration of racing with OLG and whether there's other gaming opportunities that flow money into this industry and it ends up on top of the $93.4 million, or 100...whatever it is. There's room for wagering growth.

"I don't think the intent is to say we're going to survive on $93.4 million for the next 25 years or 22 years. Do we know what all those sources look like? No. Do we know how money's going to be distributed? No, we don't. But this framework hopefully puts in the balances and counterbalances, sets the responsibilities to be sure that decisions get made the right way, and that everybody's interests are reflected in those decisions....If people think this system doesn't do that, that's what we need to hear. "

As with Monday's session, the possibility of a RFP being put forth to administer the Alliance was also put to Cook. His reply was that OLG asked WEG to "fulfill a similar role" based on their management of the Standardbred Racetrack Alliance in the province.

"So it was initiated by OLG...and WEG obviously had agreed to consider this within the context of the proposal. Is there other options? Maybe. The suggestion came up yesterday to put this whole thing out for RFP to see if there are other organizations that would administer and manage the Alliance. So that's included in our comments now and we can record that again from today. But all of those things need to be thought through as well, whether you could actually do that. Can you actually operate something different without WEG as a player in it? I'm new to this industry but I recognize pretty clearly that they're 85 percent of the wagering and that gives them a position in the industry that's hard to simply ignore."

Another hot topic of discussion was that of key performance indicators; ie. giving the industry benchmarks to meet and what they should be. The consensus from the audience was that the industry doesn't do a good enough job of making information public so that participants could form an educated opinion. Representatives from the OLG, including Senior Vice President of Horse Racing Cal Bricker, noted that data is currently being compiled on wagering that should provide a clearer picture.

Throughout the session, representatives from Ontario Racing recorded notes on the comments from the audience and Cook concluded the consultation by noting that feedback from each round-table would be compiled, released and considered.

A complete list of the remaining consultation dates appears below (dates subject to change).

  • Wednesday, November 9 - 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. - Sarnia (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)

After the session, Ontario Racing released its online consultation portal. The portal includes a series of questions and the option to attach a word document, for those who would like to share additional thoughts.

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November 3, 2016 - 12:03 pmAS usual whenever I read or

AS usual whenever I read or hear comments from Mr. Adler I invariably think I wish I had written or said that!
His willingness to speak truth to power no matter the consequences should be respected by all.
I will stick to commenting one of his points only, his word "SUBSIDY". I think that word/perception will either be keyed on by the public, or worse will be used by some politicians, so be careful what you wish for you may just get it!!

November 2, 2016 - 8:53 amI'll keep it short - 4

Marty Adler SAID...

I'll keep it short - 4 points:

1. Ontario Racing is OHRIA all over again, and it (OHRIA) was the negotiator of the original slots program - too successful for its own good....and cancelled! Way to go OHRIA or OR, or whatever this group calls itself next year.

2. Ontario Racing says there will be more than the $93 million to racing since they are looking to include new product. Wasn't that the criteria for the old program that brought $325 million to racing AS A PARTNERSHIP? And this new policy will be seen as a SUBSIDY - the public will love tha! Not!

3. Asking for an RFP is like the OLG posting a job description when the candidate has already been chosen - in house- and everyone knows it!

4. Nobody lives in Sarnia!

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