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Wynne Responds To Citizen Story

Published: December 1, 2013 9:56 am ET

Last Comment: December 8, 2013 3:04 pm ET | 15 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Premier Kathleen Wynne has issued a letter to the Ottawa Citizen in response to the newspaper's feature on Eastern Ontario's harness racing participants.

The letter was published on Saturday, one week after the Citizen feature.


Re: Unstable ground, Nov. 23.

In contrast to this Citizen article's headline, I believe our five-year partnership plan puts horse racing on stable ground for decades to come. I made a commitment to work with the horse racing industry to secure a future.

I accept the decision to end Slots at Racetracks Program (SARP) has been difficult for the horse racing industry. That is why I mandated the tri-partisan Horse Racing Transition Panel develop a new plan for the industry that ensured two important pillars: a long-term commitment of predictable and stable funding for the industry, and integration into the OLG's Modernization Plan.

The future for the industry, and this is true across North America, is in building a new fan base for the sport. Tying revenue to products unrelated to racing has been identified in three separate reviews as poor public policy. Our plan provides the appropriate public support to maintain a foundation for racing based on solid business planning, but, more importantly, it provides opportunities for growth.

The Partnership plan also addresses industry governance by restructuring the Ontario Racing Commission into two divisions - one to oversee traditional regulatory functions; and Ontario Horse Racing, which will distribute funding and work with the OLG on industry development to grow the fan base.

Confidence is already returning to the industry, as evidenced by the recent yearling sales at Forest City, where prices were up on average by $3,000. I appreciate this has been a difficult period of transition, but I believe brighter days are ahead. I'm confident Ontario's Five-Year Horse Racing Partnership is better than SARP. I believe it will be the model for public support for racing across North America.

Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario, Minister of Agriculture and Food


December 8, 2013 - 3:04 pmIn response to Mr. Carter and

Georg Leber SAID...

In response to Mr. Carter and Mr. Robinski:

As an owner of a race horses, I have no objection of lowering the take out to 5%. Of course if you do that harness racing can't survive anywhere except Toronto, just like the Thoroughbreds. Remember that money wagered on-line doesnt go to the tracks. How do you operate a racetrack with no money.

Give us back SARP and take the OLG and the Liberals out of horse racing completely at the same time. Giving back SARP doesnt detrack from horse payers whatsoever. That money comes from the slots. This is more than fair.

If SARP doesnt come back, then harness horse racing will die in Ontario, putting thousands out of work and taking over a billion out of the economy. I got my New York racing license last week. I have no confidence that things will change here.

I really think the Liberals will continue to form a minority government next election due to the support of the Toronto ridings. This is death to business and certainly to harness horse racing.

Georg Leber-ICR Racing

December 5, 2013 - 12:55 pmMr.Carter has hit the nail on

Mr.Carter has hit the nail on the head. When I take employees(most in their 20,s or 30,s) for 4 day weekend to the Bellagio in Las Vegas they join the crowd making sports bets on football or basketball with a maximum cost of 5% on their wager and also they only have to choose between 2 teams. Meanwhile I sit with a handful of others in their race room with 5 individual TV's, free programs and forms, free drinks etc etc. I want a realistic answer to this question from one and all involved in racing. Do you blame them??

December 4, 2013 - 6:29 amMr.Leber, i have a peach of

John Carter SAID...

Mr.Leber, i have a peach of an idea. Why doesn't the race industry start competing for business by lowering takeouts and using different betting platforms
such as fixed odds wagering and exchange wagering instead of just waving the white flag of surrender the way they have been doing for the last 20 years and saying we can't compete and watching long time race players such as myself leave for other forms of gambling such as sports or poker that has a much fairer house take. It has to be beyond obvious to anyone that with the race games current broken business model and excessive takeouts that they have zero chance to attract young fresh gamblers and without them the game dies a certain death.

December 3, 2013 - 12:19 pmMr. Yamakva I haven't

Georg Leber SAID...

Mr. Yamakva
I haven't responded to one of your posts in a while so I thought I would this time. I have known Mr. Timpano since we were teenagers in high school and he does run a successful business. I still have 10 horses at his farm.

There are many industries that have a bad business model. Since you imply that you are an owner of more than one night club we can use that.

For every night club opened 1000 go bankrupt and don't pay their creditors causing financial hardship everywhere. What if the government stepped in and took away all the licenses of night clubs, bars and taverns and declared that the OLG now is the only place licensed for that industry? Don't laugh-where do we have to go now to buy alcohol??? Sure they would screw it up but that wouldn't stop them. The industry would get smaller which the goverment would say is a good thing. One thing is for sure, people would line up to attend no matter what.

The difference is, Slots were a great business model that the tracks gave a home to and helped nourish. The government saw an opportunity to take more money. In the end if they would have left another 100 million a year in the business, we would not have this issue. The government spends that in an hour, badly. If we cut costs on the subways from 50 billion to 49 billion we could run horse racing for 100 (one hundred) years. 100 million wouldnt cover one month of losses that bars incur and never pay back.

If I was better connected I would secure a government contract for a windmill farm. Imagine being paid to not produce anything at all. I could go on all day on government subsidized industries that if they disappeared would put thousands of people out of work.

As I have always said to you, help us with good ideas. Remember this as well: Almost every owner loses money in this business. We don't want to lose more or we will stop supporting it or lessen our investment. That hurts everyone.

Georg Leber-ICR Racing

December 3, 2013 - 9:34 amPremier Wynne seems to insist

John Findley SAID...

Premier Wynne seems to insist on using words such as funding and support and previously subsidy, in all her statements. These words have a connotation of extra money coming out of the budget to support racing [i.e. taking from schools and hospitals} which could be easily used in future discussions. This is in actuality a partnership and the money is shared among several jurisdictions including horse racing. This should never be forgotten in all discussions and or negotiations.

December 2, 2013 - 5:12 pmMr Timpano.... If I worked in

Will Yamakva SAID...

Mr Timpano....

If I worked in an industry like that, id change professions.

Do you seriously not see a bad business model here? Horse racing spends more than takes in. This means too much is spent vs the demand puts out for the sports. I want my nightclubs funded by SARP to... especially since revenues are dwindling. What about my employees?

Horse Racing needs fans that bet on racing.

December 2, 2013 - 10:32 amThe more the Premier and the

The more the Premier and the 3 Wise men state their case the more they truly show how little they know of our industry and how ignorant they truly are of our situation. We race for half the money the US tracks do and yet our fearless leaders can make a statement that ours will be a model for North America in racing. This new so called program to be better than the SARP program while horsepeople are fleeing across the border or staying home to slowly starve. Absolutely embarrassing to make comments like this.
Everyday, we owners race and we invest about $100,000 per card. At the B tracks we are fighting to win an average of about $50,000 in purses or less. I would love to see the Premier and her panel go to work everyday with a $100 bill and come home from work with a $50 bill.
We have more productive days having conversations with our horses than our industry does having conversations with the Premier and her Panel!
Mike timpano

December 2, 2013 - 8:54 amDear Premier Wynne; I hope

Dear Premier Wynne;

I hope next time you are in the Ottawa area, you will take the time to visit some of the rural horse farms and businesses and see for yourself what reality is. I'd be happy to show you around!

Let me help you out with some facts:

Reality Check #1

You say you are concerned with animal welfare yet by cutting purses by 60%, you have crippled the funding that supports our organizations at a time they need it most

Reality Check #2:

Most horse trainers, rural businesses and service providers in the industry are/were self employed. We are not eligible for EI or Second Career programs.

Reality Check #3:

You had the Sadinsky Report in 2008 listing the flaws and solutions in SARP and chose to ignore them. Instead, you hired a "tri-partisan Horse Racing Transition Panel" that knew nothing about our industry to decide our fate.

IMO, the reality is your party was desperate for cash to make up for your past blunders. $345M that you have already spent++ while crippling an industry.

Reality Check #4:

You show a distinct favoritism for a portion of racetracks (8 @ 90% funding) and leave the rest of the Province to fight over scraps like dogs. I'd like to remind you that now that this IS a subsidy, we pay our taxes too!

Reality Check #5:

You claim racetrack operators were not transparent yet it seems as though you will be handing over $30 million+ contracts for 20 years to operate casinos since your OLG Modernization Plan was a failure. Do you truly think they will care about racing once these contracts are signed? Give your head a shake!

Reality Check #6:

The horseman's share was transparent (purses) and was what grew your rural economy. Now there is nothing in place to ensure that will continue, racetracks will become casinos and horse racing will become a hobby at best.

Reality Check #7:

You are quick to point out the increase in sales figures yet omit that 2013 figures are down from 2011 by ~$5K

Reality Check #8:

Those of us who lost their livelihoods cannot afford to wait decades.

December 1, 2013 - 9:43 pmMany of us race outside of

Lynne Magee SAID...

Many of us race outside of the two major (WEG) tracks and were making a decent enough living of it----until the SARP ended and the ruination of harness racing began. I hear of horses being euthanized, sent to the meat market sales, sold for far less than what they were worth just 20 months ago or just given away. People can't afford to keep them and some don't have the luxury of being able to retire or bury their equine friends on their own rural property. I'm not sure how Ms. Wynne and her government plan to get our industry back on track to where it can be sustainable and able to recover from the devastating blow it suffered since McGuinty, Duncan and Godfrey concocted their stories about the "subsidies" that all of the "millionaire" horsepeople were enjoying at the expense of education, health care, senior care, etc. etc. Whatever it is, it had better come soon if there is to be any racing industry left at all. I'm pretty sure the people in the Ottawa area and in Sudbury are real happy to know that Ms. Wynne believes she has a better plan than the SARP and that things are 'looking up' so just sit tight and continue to wait until the Liberals get this new plan in gear! Don't worry too much about those bills that you can't pay or the horses that you can't afford to keep. Ms. Wynne is working on it----or so she says.

December 1, 2013 - 5:37 pmUp a whopping three thousand

Bobbi Morley SAID...

Up a whopping three thousand dollars......... still well below what it costs to raise a yearling. Ms. Wynne is trying, but has spent too much time listening to a "wealthy horseman", (Snobelen) and not the every day breeder. She is still not well enough informed to be making any judgements or decisions, and it would be a wise move for her to have a meeting with members of the S.B.O.A. to hear what breeders actually need to stay in the business. Between the continued exodus of stallions, breeder, trainers & drivers from Ontario, I don't see that her so called plan has instilled much confidence in the industry.

December 1, 2013 - 5:30 pmA wise salesman once told me

Norm Brunet SAID...

A wise salesman once told me that the one thing you never had to prove is the future. That is exactly what Wynne is doing by predicting the state of the industry in 5 years. Her rebuttal is full of half truths or half lies, she has taken what she cares to say and left out the full facts to prove her point. I wish life was that easy.
I really think this Liberal party has gone astray by wasting taxpayers money, maybe we should hire 3 plumbers or 3 electricians as consultants to straighten them out.

December 1, 2013 - 12:56 pmKathleen Wynne and her

Kathleen Wynne and her sycophants comments on racing have managed to make me do what I thought was impossible. Laugh and be sick at the same time!!

December 1, 2013 - 11:54 amHere is the horror. Wynne

Georg Leber SAID...

Here is the horror. Wynne actually believes she has saved racing because of the panel and their recommendations. That motion passed in the parliament to bring back SARP will never happen under Wynne and the Liberals.

She sites the example of the yearling sale being up by over $3000 on average. The averages were up because the Sportswriter, Muscle Mass, Shadow Play, Mach Three and Camluck yearlings made up 75 of the 225 yearlings sold. That group averaged between 18,000 to 25,000 with one Camluck going for $130,000.

Another explanation is that there are many fewer Ontario bred yearlings this year and even fewer people breeding their own so supply and demand comes into play. The big money was still spent by the big barns who saw ridiculous prices in the US sales this year so some of them waited and actually saved money.

Also just because they are Ontario bred doesnt mean they will race here. I read that the breeding is down anywhere from 40 to 70 percent but that is irresponsible of me to fling out statistics. Somebody needs to do a study here and definitively point out how many fewer horses and how many less people are employed. We can't just wing it like the Premier. If the Premier pays for the study, it will cost 10 times as much and make them look like saviours.

Remember their plan is to reduce the size of the industry so it appears as a smaller number in their budget. They don't do the macro-economics and figure out how many people it affects and that effect on the economy. This isnt a household budget. If one person cuts out non-essentials in a home budget to make ends meet, it generally doesn't affect others. If 60,000 people do it, then it can start a recession.

Georg Leber-ICR Racing

December 1, 2013 - 11:48 am5 year plan better than SARP

Dave Snowden SAID...

5 year plan better than SARP !!!! Sale up 3,000 from the dismal 2012 !! Wynne and her 3 wise men are STILL out to lunch. 2011 sale- 18,500 with sarp, 2012 10,500 and now BRAGGING about a 13,500 average !!! ONLY racing in western Ontario!!! Ottawa has been left out of the loop to fend for themselves. STILL no racing east of Toronto except a 4 hour drive to Ottawa. This downward spiral we are in is getting worse by the day. Woodbine has cut to 3 days a week and is now having trouble filling classes. Wait 6 months, the classes will get shorter, the bet will drop and the 3 wise men will all have cushy 6 figure jobs in a dying industry- well 2 of 3 so far. I spend >300,000.00 per year for the last 10 years and for the first time in that 10 years my babies on the ground are American bred- sad state of affairs.

December 1, 2013 - 11:11 amClose the small tracks, put

Close the small tracks, put the little guy out of business and in the welfare or unemployment line and make of the industry that only MILLIONAIRES can afford to participate and in the long run you will make of ONTARIO'S racing industry another province like QUEBEC where for the last 5 or so years the unemployment and welfare lines have increased because most of these employees only know one thing (LOVE AND CARE OF THESE ANIMALS). Have a good day. By the way, you are not asking the people what they want, you are TELLING THEM what YOU WANT, I thought the population ran the gouvernment and not the other way around. Once again have a good day.


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