"I Don't Think The Province Has Thought This Through"

Published: February 15, 2012 10:33 am EST

In advance of the Ontario Government's unveiling of the Drummond Report, politicians and officials in the province's horse-racing industry have not waited to voice their utter confusion regarding how a cut to the economically-stimulating and vastly successful slots-at-racetracks program can actually help

the province.

Multiple reports on the hotbed topic have been picked up by a plethora of mainstream media outlets.

An article by The Windsor Star has stated that the local municipality's cut from the slots-at-racetracks program has infused $27.6 million into Windsor since 1998. Ten per cent of those funds supports a children’s fund set up by former mayor Mike Hurst, while the rest goes to capital spending.

In regard to preliminary news that the current provincial government is considering altering the slots-at-racetracks program, Ontario Harness Horse Association General Manager Brian Tropea was quoted as saying, “I really don’t understand it — it will wipe out the entire industry in Ontario.”

Ontario’s Horse Racing Industry employs an estimated 60,000 Ontarians and pays a total of $1.5-billion in wages and salaries each year in Ontario. The horse racing industry is the second largest sub-sector of the agricultural economy with a contribution in excess of wheat, eggs, poultry and hogs in 2010. Government revenue from Ontario’s horse racing revenue has increased by 27 per cent over the last 10 years, with the province of Ontario receiving $261 million dollars a year from industry not including the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation's profits from slot machines.

“It’s a significant revenue source to the city,” Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis was quoted as saying in regard to the funds which are taken in from the slots-at-racetracks program. Mayor Francis went on to say, “I need to discuss this (the proposed cuts) with the minister ... I’m concerned,”

Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association President Sue Leslie has not been sitting on her hands since news of the possible cuts came to light earlier this week.

"I don't think (many Ontarians) understand what this is going to do in terms of lost jobs and the devastation this is going to create in the rural community, both to municipalities and to farmers," Leslie was quoted as saying in an article by The London Free Press. "Horse racing looks like an easy target. But I don't think the province has thought this through."

The LFP report has also contains thoughts and quotes from Western Fair District chief executive Hugh Mitchell, who was quoted as saying, "Rather than have us fight over the pieces of the pie that exist today, why don't we work together to grow the pie?" (click here to watch the interview.)

An article by The Peterborough Examiner has quoted Leslie as saying, “Don’t cut a program that’s making you a ton of money — the government a ton of money — and is increasing jobs and the economy in the rural sector of Ontario. This is a money maker for the province.”

A report by CBC News Windsor has quoted Ontario Harness Horse Association Director Mark Williams as saying that he doesn't understand how putting tens of thousands of Ontarians out of work and halting a successful, economically-stimulating program helps the province in any way, shape or form.

"How can that be better to put 65,000 people out of work?," Williams was quoted as saying.

An article by Bullet News in Niagara has cited Welland, Ont. NDP MPP Cindy Forster, speaking on behalf of her party, as saying that the provincial Liberals should give the idea of a change to the slots-at-racetracks program a good deal of thought before making would could be a hasty and negative decision.

“We think (the government) should tread carefully before they put a lot of people out of work,” Forster was quoted as saying.

In an article by the Owen Sound Times, Town of Hanover Chief Administrative Officer Mike Dunlop has said he believes that the province will come to its senses after a full review of the mutually-beneficial program.

"It is a concern, but we think once the partnership is reviewed and the benefits of continuing at least close to the terms we have will still be there at the end of the day," Dunlop said. "Obviously the province taking 75 per cent does extremely well out of this small facility and that is all part of the partnership that if they do well, we do well, as well as the entire area."

(With files from The Windsor Star, The London Free Press, The Peterborough Examiner, Bullet News, the Owen Sound Times and CBC News Windsor)

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I was away from the industry when this program was developed, so I do not know the details on how we got here. I do know that if the province wants to change the program, the Horse industry should be in court to file an injunction immediately.

If the liberal party wants to reneg on this deal, we should also have a return to the previous system where by horse racing is the only legal gambling in Ontario, and this includes blocking all internet gambling in the province, and eliminating all subsequent pro-line and other forms of lottery. I know this won't happen, just would like to fuel the discussion.