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Rally Planned At Kawartha Downs

Published: March 12, 2013 7:47 pm ET

Last Comment: March 15, 2013 2:56 pm ET | 15 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

No Casino in The City is rallying at Kawartha Downs on Thursday at noon to lobby to keep the racetrack and slots in Cavan-Monaghan and out of Peterborough.

The grassroots organization will join members of Common Causes Peterborough and the horse-racing community to maintain the current gaming facility as it is, says organizer Rosemary McConkey.

"We want the racing to continue as well," she says.

She questions the long-term vision of the Province to revamp its gambling strategy to bring in more revenue. To find out more about the group, visit

People from within and outside of the standardbred industry are still looking for answers about yesterday’s announcement that Kawartha Downs will close its doors to harness racing on March 30 after rejecting a deal from the horse racing panel for transitional funding.

“Many other tracks have accepted deals and we expect more will sign on,” says Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal. “For reasons I don’t know at this time, it (the deal) was rejected. The panel was willing to entertain a counter-offer. I guess what I’m most disappointed about is the fact that the panel also asked if they had a counter-offer.”

“It’s obvious we don’t know what they were rejecting and what they were offering,” said Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs critic Ernie Hardeman. “Everything is hidden here and that’s not a way to do business.”

According to a Tuesday story on, Kawartha Downs’ owner Harvey (Skip) Ambrose wouldn’t comment on the issue.

“When the Slots at Racetracks program came in, it (the OLG) was looking for a place to put the slots,” said Dave Gibson, local president for the Ontario Harness Horse Association. “They said, ‘We want to be your partner.’ We did everything exactly as the government said to do. We built a racing industry that was a model for the world. At the end of the day, now the racing is done. Beware of dealing with people that would do something like that.”

“Looking at the comments on the online stories, there is a lot being a hurled at us,” said Tony Bitonti, senior media representative for the OLG. “There are a lot of people who are mad at the race tracks. We’re not part of that transitional funding.”

“At a time when 600,000 people are out of work, the last thing you want to is throw another 60,000 under the bus,” said Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak.
“There’s a better way to move forward.”

Laurie Scott, MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, also expressed disappointment that horseracing will end at Kawartha Downs on March 30.

She shared the following comments following yesterday’s announcement that no arrangement could be reached between Kawartha Downs and the Wynne government and no transition funding would be forthcoming, thereby ending horse racing in the community after 40 years.

“This is a devastating blow to the community. It is going to cost about 800 local jobs in the Peterborough area. Another blow to rural Ontario at the hands of the McGuinty/Wynne government.

“This has been mishandled by the government since day one. They announced an end to the slots at racetracks program with no warning or consultation and certainly with no thought or analysis of what it would mean for the horseracing industry in Ontario.”

Scott said that if the government had discussed things in advance with the industry, arrangements could have been worked out which would have avoided this and kept the horseracing industry viable. Even the government’s handling of the final report of the Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel and the subject of transition funding to keep the industry going, was shrouded in secrecy and a failure to include all of the parties in the discussions.

“The McGuinty/Wynne government knew, or should have known, what their decision would do to rural Ontario. They knew that when they decided to walk away from the successful slots at race track agreement it would kill the industry. Today we are seeing that result in Peterborough”.

“The impact on breeders, grooms, trainers, vets, feed and equipment suppliers, racetrack employees, and so on is devastating. And let’s not forget the lives of thousands of horses which will be sacrificed because of this.”

“I’m disappointed that as the new Minister for Rural Affairs, Jeff Leal wasn’t able to persuade his government to work out a solution for Kawartha Downs, the one track that most impacts his community.”

In addition to Kawartha Downs, the government does not have agreements to run horse racing in 2013 at an additional eight tracks including: Windsor, Hiawatha, Fort Erie, Sudbury, Rideau, Ajax, Dresden and Woodstock and has not scheduled any races for the 2013 Ontario horse racing season.

Scott confirmed that the Ontario PC Party believes that horse racing should play an integral part in Ontario’s gaming strategy and that she and her colleagues will continue to fight for these jobs and for this industry.

March 15, 2013 - 2:56 pmI would be embarassed to plan

dave lewis SAID...

I would be embarassed to plan a rally and have to have grandmothers to fill your ranks.Again not many people show up,again maybe you should get the students from QUEBEC TO SHOW YOU HOW ITS DONE.

March 14, 2013 - 3:24 pmOne simple question to the

Carolyn Rae SAID...

One simple question to the critics of Kawartha Downs... (some of whom show up there every week to race, and don't mind collecting the driver's cheques).

For months each and every one of us has listened to the lies spread by this Liberal Government hell-bent on destroying our industry, yet when one of theirs "Jeff Leal" places the blame for the end of racing on KD's owner, Skip Ambrose, like blind sheep, you are all instantly believing what they say, and turning on the man who has kept racing going year round for years. Can you name one other racetrack in Ontario other than WEG that has raced YEAR ROUND???

Shame on you all for condemning this man without even hearing his side of the story. He is not now, nor has he ever been our opposition during this siege, IT IS THE LIBERAL GOVERNMENT, and in slandering Harvey "Skip" Ambrose, they have taken the heat off of them! WAKE UP....AND REMEMBER WHO INITIATED THIS DESTRUCTION, AND WHO IS CARRYING IT OUT!!! We have already been weakened by their "divide and conquer" plan, and this is nothing but a continuation of that plan.

Has anyone of our Horse Representatives tried to speak to Skip??? Has anyone thought of offering to share costs of operation using our surplus balance in the Purse account. A very reputable source has told me it would cost approx. $20,000. per race card in the winter months and approx. $10,000. per race card in the summer months. A 50-50 split on the cost of racing may allow racing to continue at KD until a mutually agreeable business plan can be put into place, but all of this is contingent on the ORC (Ontario Liberal Government) allowing us to keep and manage the surplus funds in our purse account.

Just thinking out loud......

March 14, 2013 - 12:51 pmJust a thought owner of

Brett Riley SAID...

Just a thought owner of kawartha downs says he will lease track for one dollar,could this be done and run it like non for profit for next three years.Would the deal with transitionl funding include operating costs.This would ease the blow for the short term until a better solution comes forward.

March 14, 2013 - 10:25 amMr Lewis... the horseman had

Will Yamakva SAID...

Mr Lewis...

the horseman had the break, it was called the SARP program, over the course of that program, they never had to do a lick of advertising, and a lick of promotions, and now you want to rally to save something that has no fans? while you talk about how long they work, that does not change the fact that fans have gone away in droves.

I could give you the break, and say nothing, and when you have pools of maybe $10k a card at Kawartha, and zero fans in the grandstands, remember, your horseman are not gonna make a cent, and have no job.

If a store in a mall regularily made $300 in sales, but paid its employees $500 in wages a day, would you think the store would stay open? Would you say, "the store should continue to lose money because the employees work X amount of hours a day?"

It would be the job of the employees to help promote a business that is not making the numbers make sense. That or be like the horseman..... looking at what they could have done, despite working them hours as now they are all out of business.

March 14, 2013 - 1:13 amLive racing and slots

Tim P. SAID...

Live racing and slots relationship is real! I only play horses and my gf likes the slots. I play mostly online but the only time we go to the slots is when live racing is happening. She spends anywhere from $100 to $250 a visit. We go maybe 3 times in two months so maybe 18 to 20 times a year. Times this amount by MANY people who do the same and the slots play is going to drop. Now we will just go to the Falls maybe 5 or 6 times. Who crunched the numbers on this bright idea?

March 13, 2013 - 5:43 pmNO RACES,NO SLOTS end of

dave lewis SAID...

NO RACES,NO SLOTS end of story!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!and to will yamaka, remember this... these people work from 12 to 16 hour days... sometimes they don't have time to be advertising salesman too. Give them a break. I am not totally against what you say but you have to give the horsemen a break once in a while. At least they deserve that.

March 13, 2013 - 4:32 pmYou are right Bill and Keith

jim morgan SAID...

You are right Bill and Keith the owner did nothing since day one.He is just a money grabber.The people in Kawartha region would know about Kawartha closing but how about the people say in Oshawa where i am from? If you are not a horse racing fan not many.But if they would told how many horses will have to be put down they would say that it is sad.I don't think that the word got out enough about what is going on ( loss of jobs ) ect.I just hope that someone can step up and take Kawartha over and LETS KEEP RACING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

March 13, 2013 - 1:08 pmAfter reading and hearing


After reading and hearing about no racing at Kawartha Downs on March 31, 2013, I am compelled to write this comment. Ten to fifteen years ago the owner at Kawartha Downs locked out the local horsemen. At which time he stated that he was going to pave the track so he could have stock car racing. Along came the SARP program and his tune changed.

If the government is putting conditions on the funding as to where the funds are being used, it is obvious from his past that he would reject the offer. He does not want the government or the horsemen knowing where he pocketed the funds. It is too bad that there was no one from the government/ORC forcing this owner to disclose where the past funding from SARP went which was allocated towards improvements for the horsemen and horses at Kawartha Downs. This government just keeps putting money in his pocket. So why would people expect him to change. Horse racing is an overhead cost which he doesn't want. Greg Houle (past horsemen)

March 13, 2013 - 11:22 amWill, I totally agree with

John Rich SAID...

Will, I totally agree with you. I just don`t think you will ever convince trainers and drivers that they have a responsibility as well. I remember a few years ago when SC wanted to take a percentage of the purse pool money and put it toward marketing and promoting the product. You would think that the World was coming to an end. Take small amount of the alotted purse money out to bump up a pick-4 and then have the track reduce the take out a bit and then market then see what happens. Cut the gambler into the action then people get excited for the product. Everyone in the horse business should want to advertise to bring people to the races. I go to a feed mill that I know supplies feed for many horseman. I see zero advertisement at their store for live horse racing. I don`t see it at breeding farms, vet clinics or other secondary business that could help. People think that it needs to be something huge but they are so wrong.

March 13, 2013 - 10:20 amI went twice to Kawartha

Jamie Higgs SAID...

I went twice to Kawartha downs in 2011. Ontario sire stakes for 2 year old filly trotters and 2 year Colt pacers. The place was packed, We were 5 deep at the fence to try watch the races.I don't understand why there wasn't big parimutuals those days but it was great to see all those people watching Horseracing. Bob Burgess mentioned something that struck me and is true with the 4 to 8 people I go to the races with at Rideau. On Racedays at Rideau and Grand river Slots revenues go up 10 to 15%.I don't play the Slots but everyone I go with does.They wouldn't go without the racing. Could it be possible that Horse racing lovers that don't go to the tracks because there's no racing make up the percentage from the Slots revenue that Horsemen receive? My point is, If Slot revenue at Racetracks drops from 1.5 Billion to 1.1.Billion. The Government who is trying to keep the $345 million the industry gets now will lose plus loss of jobs and economic spinoffs and taxes that go with it. Would be a disaster for the Government.

March 13, 2013 - 8:07 amIf you wanna blame the owners

Will Yamakva SAID...

If you wanna blame the owners for Kawartha..... the average race fan would ask themselves,

1) If the conditions were so bad, why not move to a different track? I know if my work has crappy conditions, I leave.

2) Why are so many people going to show up for a rally, but these same people dont fill the stands and wager on the races on racenight.

its not only the track's responsibility to fill the seats.

March 13, 2013 - 7:48 amThe finger pointing has to

The finger pointing has to stop. We need a more innovative approach to this horrible problem which has not made any sense what so ever. The problem is the liberal government at queen's park. Any arena you look at they are the problem and they have to go. End of story. Just thinking out loud. Bruce T. Winning. PS I do not know of any horse man or woman who does not go to the barn every morning.

March 12, 2013 - 10:37 pmAND SO IT BEGINS!!! After

Peggy Powell SAID...

AND SO IT BEGINS!!! After closing 3 racetracks in Ontario last year and now Kawartha Downs, the Liberals see fit to stand by as thousands of jobs are lost and many more lives are being ruined, all because of their rash decision to end SARP. Their modernization plan is not going as they had planned and will not create the number of job opportunities in the very near future, so why, is it so important to destroy this industry and loose those,oh so important, jobs TODAY? Why can't SAR be reinstated until something better comes along? Oh Yea!! There is nothing better. They would have us and everyone else believe that the race industry is a drag on society. It seems to me that we contribute millions to our society in the form of taxes alone, not to mention the billions that SARP contributed to the economy of Ontario. I say that it is the politicians who are a drag on society. They spend money that isn't theirs. They act like 2 and 3 year olds in parliament and they have the nerve to tell us how our buisness should be run. If ,they could count to ten, they could balance their books. It breaks my heart to see the good horse people from Kawartha Downs being treated this way, but I am sure that they will not be alone in their grief as many of us will join them soon. We still don't know if Flamboro, Georgian, Rideau, Dresden, Woodstalk, Sarnia or Fort Erie are going to race in 2013. I don't know how you feel , but , I am damm sick of not knowing what the Government has planned for us. Mr. Ambrose wouldn't comment on the issue because he knows that this is his fault. He just wants his slots. To heck with the horses and the people in this industry. We are just collateral damage.

March 12, 2013 - 9:35 pmWell when the owners get $4

Well when the owners get $4 million a yr just for hosting the slots, why would they entertain putting on racing and loosing money. they did no improvements in the last 20 yrs i raced there, we had to bath horses outside in the middle of winter and -20 wind chill so thats how much they think of the racing world at Kawartha Downs!!!!!!

March 12, 2013 - 9:25 pmThe guy you need to be

The guy you need to be pointing your fingers at is the owner. The poster boy for the cancelation of the SARP program. He promised to build a new ship in barn and race paddock and nothing ever was done. How much did he receive from the program over the last 15 years ? I guess the offer from the OLG wasn't good enough for him so he said forget it and he turned his back on the horseman again .I am sure he has enough money put away that he wont have to worry about paying his mortgage or truck payment. Good Luck to the horseman and women in the kawartha lakes region, you deserved alot better.

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