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ESPN Discusses Ontario Racing Crisis

Published: December 28, 2012 12:59 pm ET

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As the clock ticks down to April 1, 2013, ongoing talk of the end of the slots-at-racetracks program and the massive impact it will have on the Ontario horse racing industry has become so commonplace in the provincial media to the point where it almost seems like part of the furniture.

One of the world's largest sports media outlets has now addressed the issue, and ESPN's take on the situation has helped freshen up the perspective on how the Ontario Liberal Government's utterly reckless policy decision is literally killing Ontario horse racing.

In a December 26 podcast entitled 'True North Handicapped', Barry Abrams, interviewing on behalf of ESPN, the 'world-wide leader in sports,' speaks with the Sovereign Award winning and nationally respected sports journalist Dave Perkins.

At this point, if people have been following the ongoing Ontario situation whatsoever, it is no secret at all as to what Perkins' opinion on the Ontario Liberal Government's herculean sucker punch to the provincial horse-racing industry is. In the interview, Perkins cites all of the positive slots-at-racetracks statistics that Ontario horsepeople are well versed in at this point.

Pointing out all of the sound logic and facts that Perkins presents during the interview would be an act of utter redundancy at this juncture, although, the fact that ESPN, at least in some respect, is beginning to be brought into the loop regarding Ontario horse-racing's current plight can do nothing but help, if anything at all.

In summary, after having made a sound case for the slots-at-racetracks program, Perkins simply stated, as he has on multiple occasions, that Dalton McGuinty's minority Ontario Liberal Government, which has also prorogued the provincial Legislature, has "simply declared war on horse racing."

The other part of Abrams' roughly 15-minute interview features a discussion with the now ex-Woodbine Entertainment Group on-air personality Renee Kierans.

The interview helps break the news that Kierans, a respected horsewoman on the backstretch and professional simulcast personality on the frontside, was let go along with roughly 20 others after WEG completed its 2012 thoroughbred meet just weeks ago (It should also be noted that Natalie Zak, a mainstay on the weekly Bet Night Live! program, was also laid off).

In the interview, Kierans stated that everyone in Ontario horse racing "is walking on eggshells" and that it is a "nervous time for the industry."

"It's been tough," Keirans stated. "I knew cuts were coming, (but) I didn't know I was going to be part of them." She went on to state that she will land on her feet "probably quicker than Woodbine will land back on [its] feet." Kierans added that "it's a tenuous situation that they (WEG) are in right now. They have a tough road to hoe."

Like Perkins has done for months and months now, Kierans took the opportunity to flush the Ontario Liberal Government's attempt to spin the slots-at-racetracks program. "I think it's a great marriage. It was never a subsidy, as the government has tried to call it. It was always a revenue-sharing program. It was a 'win-win' situation for everybody. Three-hundred and forty-five million dollars to the horse-racing industry and over $1 billion to the government. Where are you (the government) going to get that kind of money? I don't think it is going to come from the bingo halls."

Abrams did ask Kierans who she thought was to blame in the current Ontario horse-racing crisis. Coming up with a percentage on the spot, Kierans opted to say that she thought that the government was 80 per cent to blame, with racing shouldering the other 20 per cent.

"The government --- did they get greedy and decide they wanted more? Could it have been dealt with differently? Probably. As far as the horsemen, I don't know. I think we all just tried to take advantage of everything that was out there because we never saw an end to it. We thought, you know, 'This is how it is going to be from here on in' because how could the government possibly, conceivably, want to end this program when it is generating over one billion dollars per year for them? This just doesn't make any sense to me. I can't wrap my head around that one."

(With files from ESPN)

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