PCs: Give Racing First Crack At Buying Existing Slots Operations

Published: December 6, 2012 11:02 am EST

On Thursday, December 6, Ontario's Progressive Conservative Party Caucus released its anticipated white paper entitled 'Paths to Prosperity - A New Deal for the Public Sector.' In the paper, the Ontario PC Caucus states that the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.'s 'empire building' in the gaming sector should be stopped, and that the province should give racetrack operators 'first crack' at buying existing slots operations.

The mention of the provincial horse-racing industry appears on Page 21 and states:

"Putting an immediate end to the OLGC’s empire building plan for 29 new casinos across the province could also create an opportunity for Ontario’s horse racing industry. One option would be to give racetrack operators a first crack at buying existing slots operations at fair market value, which could save their industry while still providing a good return to taxpayers."

The white paper also contained many general references to the provincial gambling sector. Earlier this week, Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak made it public that he wants the province to get out of the business of being a gaming owner/operator, and strictly become a tough regulator of the lucrative industry.

The white paper states that, if voted into power, the Ontario PC Party would "re-examine every business that government is in," to see if there is still a need for government ownership, or real value for the public. The paper singles out gaming in this instance, noting "of particular interest are government’s gambling and liquor businesses."

The white paper also takes aim at the OLG, stating:

"The case for change in gambling is even stronger. We believe that government must regulate the industry, but it certainly doesn’t need to run its day-to-day operations. The track record of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation is a sorry one. Casino profits have dropped from $800 million in 2001 to just $100 million in 2011. The company itself says it requires $1 billion in public money to refresh its outdated products. And this is after pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into its struggling resort casino in Windsor, money that could have gone towards highways or hospitals."

A reoccurring reference to the fact that the government should take on a tough regulatory role to the gaming industry keeps appearing in the white paper. "It is time for the government to become the responsible, respected and tough regulator and not the operator trying to bully communities into accepting new casinos. The government should move to wind down the OLGC, and privatize its lotteries, casino assets and slots operations."

Listed below is Hudak's introduction to the WHITE PAPER, which can be viewed in its entirety by clicking here.

The years immediately following the next election must be a time of major change for Ontario, a time when we all work together to get our province back on its feet and creating jobs again. To achieve that goal, we must rethink how we run government so that it provides the services we need at a price we can afford. Ontario’s $14.4-billion deficit tells us that we are a long way from that position now. Without urgent action, the services we truly care about are at risk.

That’s why we are proposing a New Deal for the public sector. By focusing on the core services that matter most to taxpayers, we believe we can create a leaner public service that delivers more value for less money. Our New Deal will have a clear direction that sets goals, measures outcomes, and then rewards the individuals who help us achieve those outcomes. We will value individuals’ innovation, hard work and delivery of top quality customer service. What we won’t do is give performance bonuses to 98 per cent of managers, just for showing up.

Ontario’s civil service has not been producing the results the public needs, but the problem is not the civil servants themselves. It is political leadership that has no vision for government other than to make it bigger.

The Ontario PC Caucus believes that is not a pragmatic or affordable approach. Our goal is clear. We need a smaller government that focuses on the things that government can do best. We will do less, but do those things better.

This will require getting government out of businesses where it doesn’t belong. For example, when too many Ontarians are waiting to get vital health care services, do we really need a government agency borrowing money to offer online gambling to compete with PokerStars?

Difficult decisions will have to be made to bring the size of the public sector in line with taxpayers’ ability to pay, but it is also a long overdue opportunity to renew and refocus our provincial civil service. We are confident that we will emerge from this process with an efficient and effective civil service to which people will be proud to belong.

This Paths to Prosperity white paper presents our bold, new vision for transformational change in the public sector, and provides specific reforms for feedback and consultation.

The Premier’s job is to provide the best public services and highest quality of life that our economy can sustain. A successful public sector relies on private sector growth. That’s why I am so strongly focused on creating new jobs and putting an end to the debt and government overspending that are holding our economy back.

Those are my priorities and they come from the values of common sense and prudence that have long defined our province. I believe that it’s time to get government working for you again, and that’s what I will deliver.

Tim Hudak
Leader of the Official Opposition



Well, it's official.

Horwath said that she's willing to work with the new Liberal government.
She obviously doesn't feel that she's strong enough to lead the province of Ontario or Hudak's recently announced right wing agenda scared her back into the Liberals arms.

Either way, the horse-racing industry is toast.

In reply to by bobbi

john smith
there's an old saying that goes like
this...."what you compromise to keep
you ultimately lose"
the white paper report is encouraging
and has potential,however what will the
cost be in the long run.
I feel that we still need to focus our
efforts on public awareness.
Here's my question.
How many people outside of the horse
rscing world do we personally know
that are fully aware of the current
crisis in this industry?
Come election time,remember that these
persons who no not what's happening
are voting too.

Below is a copy of the letter (e-mail) I just sent to Mr. Peter Shurman. I believe this is a very good start, but we all must make our concerns known about the lack of a contingency clause within the initial offering to the Racetrack Owners and anyone else who may be willing to purchase the Slot Parlours at the Racetracks protecting Horse Racing in Ontario.

Dear Sir;
I have just finished reading, with great interest, the PC Party’s Path to Prosperity White Paper. THANK YOU to you and Mr. Hudak.

As a member of the Horse Racing Community here in Ontario as well as a member of both the Federal and Provincial PC Parties, I am greatly relieved to finally see Mr. Hudak take a stand which may be the saving grace for Horse Racing here in Ontario. Please note I say “may be”! Although I am very much in favour of the changes proposed in this white paper, I am cautiously optimistic of the proposal to give Race Track Owners “first chance”, to purchase the Slot Parlours, with no provision safe-guarding the future of Horse Racing.

In the original Slots-at-Racetracks program, the revenue sharing agreement was contingent on live horse racing at the facility. I would ask that you and Mr. Hudak consider adding a contingency clause providing a percentage of the revenue to live horse racing at each of the facilities across the province, with a percentage to go to breeders awards and the Ontario Sires Stakes Program, which is currently recognized as the best program in the world, bar none!

This provision would ensure the continued employment of the 60,000+ full and part-time employees in Ontario currently in danger of becoming unemployed by this Liberal Government’s greedy decision to end the Slots-at-Racetracks program at the end of March 2013.

I can, I believe, safely say at least 60,000+ directly affected by this decision in Ontario as well as family members, friends and peers of the 60,000+ will be only to happy to support a PC Government willing to “GO TO BAT” for them and their families, as well as their future generations in Rural Ontario.

One of our own, Anthony MacDonald, has been selected as the PC representative for the Guelph Area, and if you take the time to read the comments on the Standardbred Canada website, immediately following the article on this White Paper, you will see a growing list of supporters for the PC Party’s White Paper, albeit some with the same cautious optimism that there still may be no clause to safeguard our industry.

I would ask that you seek relevant data and information from the spokespeople within our Industry, to come up with a fair and equitable contingency clause to be included in your offer to the Racetrack Owners in Ontario. Consider their requests and vital information in a united collaboration to safeguard the future of one of Ontario’s most historical forms of entertainment, “100 plus years of Horse Racing in Ontario”. I know that Anthony will be able to provide guidance on the correct contacts to use as representation from every aspect of Horse Racing Ontario; ie.,

Representation from the Breeders – Standardbreds suggest Anna Meyers, Pres. – SBOA (Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Assoc)
Representation from the Breeders – Thoroughbreds -
Representation from the Breeders – Quarter Horses -
Representation from the Owners/Trainers/Drivers – Standardbreds - OHHA, COSA, NCRHHA,
Representation from the Owners/Trainers/Jockeys – Thoroughbreds
Representation from the Owners/Trainers/Jockeys – Quarter Horses

This would be a great “First Project” for Anthony to spearhead!

In conclusion, once again, I thank you and Mr. Hudak for your “Path to Prosperity” White Paper, and sincerely urge you to consider my request.


Carolyn M. Rae
Maple Ridge Farm
S1495 Con 9, RR3
L0C 1H0

In reply to by major hugs

It would be better if the slot machines were tied to the MANAGEMENT TEAM .For example at grand river Ted Clarke and the owners (WOOLICH AGICULTURE SOCIETY) would continue as manager and operator of both racing ,off track betting,programs ,restaurants and also retain the employed staff. REPLACE GODFREY with a newly elected government office to work with the Orc ? Bring live racing back where it was and open the slots only on race days ...INCREASE THE RACE DAYS IN THE SUMMER and JAN.FEB. MAR. Race on fri and Sunday afternoon? Mr. HUDAK are you listening to Tony?

In reply to by anthony macdonald

i must admit,that, before this week, i wasn't a big fan of mr. hudak!!
but after reading and listening to mr.hudak this past week, with regard to the
current dysfunctional operation of the O.L.G, and the apparent end of S.A.R.
at racetracks in ontario, i am really liking what i am hearing from the P.C. party
giving current track owners first option to buy existing slots and gaming rights
is a tremendous idea!!
of course, very strong language dictating the revenue sharing of such partnerships
between horsemen,and track owners must be materialized,and written right into law!
this should be a rather simple agenda,given the fact that all parties involved,al-
ready have a good idea of current,and projected revenues in the slots,and horse
racing respectively!! perhaps the time has come,A-mac, to start preparations(strong contract language) for this new " horse racing under gaming umbrella" idea,that seems to be coming ontario's way,what with the new P.C govn't
i am confident that the horsemen involved in this new process,wont forget the fact
that a few of the current track operators have not been operating in good faith for the horsemen,or the bettor(s) for that matter,and should be dealt with
accordingly!! imagine a company wanting to run a casino, and cuddle up with horsemen and fans in a new agreement,yet refusing to provide a working tote-board for live racing!!?? BE CAREFUL but at least you know now who,and what you are dealing with!! good luck a-mack i will be writing a cheque for your campaign

Give me a break! Do any of you know what the fair market value of a business that makes over $1.5 Billion in profit a year is? It is about what the provincial deficit is. If it can be sold in total or in pieces, I doubt the tracks or horsemens associations have the money to do this.
The white paper is more tory blue than anything else. Do political folk ever tell you something to get your votes?
Here is an idea, how about not destroying a system that makes $1.1 Billion a year for the tax payers of Ontario and supplies an industry with the ability to employ over 50,000 tax payers and supplies Billions to the Ontario economy.
Many groups want that profit potential in these difficult economic times. They are willing to do anything to do it. Your govt is not even sitting in the house. Bingo halls and American casino companies are willing to take over double (100% more) of the profits horseracing have now. That will take years to happen, if it even does happen. Horseracing has just over 3 months and by the look of the race dates for the first 3 months of 2013, they have already started shutting down. Georgian wants no racing and everyone else is dropping at least 25% of their racing. I wonder if the purses will be topped up to use the purse 10% of the money before April 1st. I am sure someone will be happy to take that money too, if it doesn't go to the racing industry.
Are you willing to start fighting for your industry? Most people in the province of Ontario either don't know this is happening or worse, they don't care. More importantly nobody knows what to do to stop the rich and powerful from becoming more rich and more powerful.

In reply to by anthony macdonald

Would Mr MacDonald be supportive of allowing the racetracks to operate only as a slot facility? I would bet there would be current tracks that would drop racing in a heartbeat if they had the chance to operate as a slot only gaming facility. What is MacDonald going to do to make sure racing remains? So far he has said he endorses Tim Hudaks vision. What is your vision Anthony,in your own words,not the party line.

While Hudak's statement is welcome news, the big question is where does racing fit into this plan. Yes, the racetracks will own the slots but that doesn't necessarily mean that they will be forced to incorporate racing. A few tracks who currently have slots, have already applied for reduced race dates thereby limiting racing opportunities. Also, if the gov't allocates funding for racing, do we want to become a "subsidized" industry which will be subject to cuts in the future, being a non-essential business? A revenue sharing agreement, albeit in a reduced form, is the only way that horse racing in Ontario can survive as the tracks have already indicated that they can not survive on the pari-mutuel bet alone. To put it bluntly, we, as an industry, still need a lot more information before we jump on the band wagon. Good luck to Anthony..... he'll have a lot of work to do, after he's elected.

Anthony Macdonald's words are right on,but can we count on Tim Hudak to appoint other representatives on the panels from the horse industry like OHHA,OHRIA, the Thouroughbreds etc so that we can have input into the new OLG/Racetrack plan or
will Hudak sell out to Track owners who in turn sell to unsavery interests that could care less about horseracing. At this point we have lost faith in all parties and this plan has a chance to help if the right people are put in charge and their comes Anthony Macdonald's input on a constant basis but remember the party line oh yea better be ready to walk your own path Anthony or cave to the party line that does not always do what polititions got into politics for.
I jumped on Hudak in his last press release when he talked privatization of OLG & LCBO but if regulated properly and I mean witholding foriegn ownership and mandatory levels of racing , Then I would go with this as the best alternative.

This sounds promising, but I do have some questions, such as, if the OLG is allowed to get all their deals up and running before an election, can they be changed? How do we get out of running 29 gambling zones once Larry & Paul have them in place? Is there any way to slow this wreck down before it's too late? There will be little anyone can do once it is a done deal. Good luck, Anthony, you have a long and bumpy road ahead of you.

It is my sincere hope that when elected Premier, Mr Hudak deals with this issue quickly. I also hope that when doing so Mr Hudak includes in the agreement that a set % of revenue must go to constant upgrading of racing facilities and purses/breeding bonuses/Sires Stakes. It is very obvious that without these conditions the racetracks will not treat racing fair. Tracks will have the slot revenue and make little attempt to help racing grow. In fact some may encourage it to fail.
All that aside thank you Mr Hudak for coming forward with a direction for racing to hope and pray for.
In this race we should all be standing at the rail holding tickets and cheering "come on Mr Hudak"!

This past year has been difficult for all of us. For me waking up in an ambulance felt the same way. Confused wondering if this was a bad dream, trying to piece together what happened and how?

But the liberal party forgot who we were and what we represent. We are not a drain on society, quite the opposite, we are like everyone else in Ontario. Hard working people with families and mortgages. Quite frankly this liberal party has become a drain on us. That makes us more like everyone in Ontario than ever.

Today Tim Hudak has shown another glimpse of what our future could look like, this party that has been accused of carelessly ignoring us has shown today that instead of just condemning the liberals horrible and disgraceful actions to not just our industry but our entire province, he is shedding light on how our futures could change,our province could change. The progressive conservative party is laying out an economic plan that is about bold changes, but changes that could lead not only racing but our province back from the brink of social and fiscal condemnation by showing the vision and leadership we have lacked for near a decade.

To say I'm proud to be a candidate for Tim Hudak's Progressive Conservative party is an understatement, I'm doing something no one thought I could, including me.
I will save most of my thanks for my victory speech but I wouldn't be writing this today without the confidence this industry gave me. The resolve to take the high road comes from the faces of the people I drive for who have families and of course my own family.

I certainly can't accomplish this without the industry I call home and the people I call family. Today we see hope, today we see a future, today is the first day I can think about Christmas and smile.

Anthony MacDonald PC candidate Guelph, Ontario.

The details are in the fine print.

Hudak wants to give the racetrack owners a chance to purchase the slot facility which is where the revenue comes from.

Why would the racetrack owners take on the horse racing cost obligations if not forced?

The only option for horse racing to survive is for horse people to purchase the tracks from the track owners.

Hudak is for pure capitalism. Horse racing is not profitable enough for him to support it.

The SARP program is history, time to move on and re-boot our industry.

If a provincial election is called early enough, our last chance for survival will be to vote in an NDP government.

This is much the same as Mr. Burgess's plan and it would work for everyone concerned. Kudos to Mr Hudak for speaking up. Anthony MacDonald surely has my vote. I hope that every horseman or women will donate to his campaign when the time comes. I know that I will. Every dollar will help no matter how small or large.

In reply to by GYoung

The end of the SARP pogram has been an eye opening experience in how a government can manipulate reports,studies and business ventures funded by taxpayers.
With the current economic indicators of reduced returns ,losses at some casinos... a private sector company would never venture into investing more and expanding gaming at this time. Nor would a private sector company close down a location that made 39 Million $ like Windsor. And that 39 million is right from Godfrey's and Duncan's mouth when they announced the end of SARP ON March 13th.

This paper takes some major steps in the right direction.However,the 'new' government must ensure that tracks that buy and operate slots must continue to operate live racing and enter into long term contracts to do so.

Many of us have been asking for Mr. Hudak to speak up and put it in writing and he has done so. Privatization has pitfalls but it sure beats the OLG and the LCBO. Let's just hope Mr. Godfrey doesn't sign any binding deals in the meantime that undermine this initiative by the Conservatives.

Today I am delivering a cheque for Anthony Macdonald's campaign.

Georg Leber-ICR Racing