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Update On Integration With OLG

Published: March 19, 2015 1:27 pm ET

Last Comment: March 26, 2015 12:03 pm ET | 26 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Sue Leslie, President of the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association, recently spoke on the process of integrating horse racing with the province's gaming arm -- the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.

The update was part of an audio interview posted on the OHRIA website.

"Well," Leslie said with a sigh to interviewer Norm Borg, "integration continues to be a very slow process, unfortunately. I do believe that the people involved at OLG and the province are sincerely working with us and trying to move integration along.

"The more involved we get in it, the more complex it becomes and, as you know, OLG were operating for some time without a CEO. Stephen Rigby now is in charge over there and I've found him to be very demonstrative, very willing to work with us, a good communicator. And so I think that getting him in place is going to help the process a lot."

Leslie noted that one of the key individuals working on the integration process -- Larry Flynn, Senior Vice President of Gaming at OLG -- is retiring at the end of the month after 14 years.

"[Larry] probably understood our industry better than most there so that will be a little bit of a setback but I know he's been briefing Stephen (Rigby) like crazy. We have had excellent communication, and I have had excellent communication. I think Phil Olsson, the Chair, has done a good job in the selection there."

Noting that she's well aware of the frustration on the horse racing industry side, Leslie offered reasons for those wondering why the process isn't moving as quickly as everyone would like.

"The frustration is hard to take some days. I know the OHRIA Product Committee, who's been working for months now to get something up and moving, sure has their frustrating days...but you're trying to satisfy two regulators, you're trying to satisfy legislation, you're trying not to cannibalize existing products, and figure out how strategically a product will work to increase money both for the province and horse racing. It is a very complex issue."

In addition to this integration, Leslie notes that there is still some discussion at the government level on where the horse racing industry should be placed and reporting to: OLG or OMAFRA.

"Those things are all being discussed right now to try and figure out both how the government should be governed as it pertains to horse racing...if we're actually going to become a part of OLG, which is what the Premier wants -- us to be fully integrated. Well, if we're going to be fully integrated, that's a big step.

"So, we need to make decisions on the governance on the government side and we also need to finalize governance on the industry side. Are the right people sitting at the table? How should that move forward? How should it work with OHR, ORC, AGCO, not to mention all the industry we're looking at that model to see if the existing model really or does that need to be tweaked somehow. Or does some type of interim governance model make sense as we go through integration and transition. Not to make excuses but they are very time-consuming."

Leslie concluded the integration discussion with assurance and confidence that those involved have the best interests of horse racing in their scope of vision.

"All I can say is I believe OHRIA is working hard and both OLG and government -- Minister Leal at OMAFRA has been terrific, I really believe Minister Leal cares about horse racing and he has his staff working diligently on all these things too. We're trying to marry it all together -- the agencies, the ministries, the industry -- and come up with a formula that is going to work best for the future for everybody."

To listen to the full interview, with Leslie's thoughts on the new tapeta surface going in at Woodbine Racetrack as well as the Pari-Mutuel Tax Reduction, click the play button below.

(Photo: Sue Leslie, OHRIA President; Stephen Rigby, OLG President & CEO; Larry Flynn, OLG Senior Vice-President of Gaming; Philip Olsson, OLG Chair)

March 26, 2015 - 12:03 pmGive it up Will - They're not


Give it up Will - They're not listening. Even dog breeders who don't usually make their living at it know how to promote their dogs. Recently the Star had a large article about a Canadian bred and owned dog having a shot at winning Westminster dog show in New York. Great story - that dog reached final 7 for Best in Show along with two other Canadian dogs and was defeated by one of them for top honors which generated another big write up. Don't think for one minute that reporters found this information for themselves - the dog people called the paper and told them about a good stoy in the making involving Canadians defeating Americans. My point is that this sort of thing happens countless times in the harness racing industry but no coverage because nobody speaks up. The people making their living in harness racing don't appear to get this concept and no amount of suggestion seems to make any difference. If you want to sell show dogs or get people interested in horse racing you have to get the stories out there any way you can. No waiting for the people who put on the show or the track owners. It won't happen.

March 25, 2015 - 8:36 pmWill, actions speak louder

Sheldon Rose SAID...

Will, actions speak louder than words. If you are that passionate, let's see some action on your part.

March 25, 2015 - 3:46 pmWill you just don't get it.

John Hill SAID...

Will you just don't get it. Harness racing is vastly different from any other sport out there, does the government own a pro hockey team, baseball team, football team, basketball team or a music venue? Well the government has a monopoly on gambling here in Ontario and is our main competition for gambling $ We horsemen (all not a few) have almost zero input into decisions made regarding the industry. How do you think your business would do if it were run by the competition who wanted you out of the picture ? Our bosses (the liberal government) would just as soon see us eliminated from the competition. You are not a musician but a promoter of music, why is it you think horsemen should be doing the job of a promoter. Don't you have specialized training to do your job of promoting or is it so simple anyone can do it? I have never suggested you said track owners were blameless but merely wanted your opinion, so I will ask yet again what your thoughts are on track owners responsibilities? No doubt we need promotions and marketing and we need a professional to handle such matters. As you stated the musicians have promoters and managers yet you make it sound as if they are doing it all themselves. Do the musicians pay for promotions and marketing out of their own pocket or do the owners of the venue pay ?

March 25, 2015 - 2:51 pmThe recent world driving

Ted Decker SAID...

The recent world driving championships down under created lots of publicity much involving our representative Jody Jamieson. His efforts on and off the track were highlighted almost daily in written form here in Canada. Now that he is back in Canada you see nothing about him or other Canadian drivers to speak of. I suggested that perhaps he and some of our other "top" drivers could do in Canada what Jody did while down under to garner the spotlight but I guess my comment wasn't relevant as it was not posted. You need to start with the stars of the sport promoting the game by making themselves visible to the public. Debate on who's to blame can go on forever but someone needs to step before its too late and the only track left in Ontario is Woodbine, and even then not for long.

March 25, 2015 - 2:40 pmWill....In spite of the fact

Sheldon Rose SAID...

Will....In spite of the fact that no one in our industry has asked for your help, I am sure we all appreciate what you have done and what you are doing for us. Keep up the good work.

March 25, 2015 - 9:40 amAt no point did I suggest

Will Yamakva SAID...

At no point did I suggest that the tracks are held blameless. In fact, I have never said my opinions on them. Feel free to insert any opinion you want to as to how I feel.

However, you say, "its against the rules to talk to fans.....". Have you the owners, drivers and trainers, as a group, lobbied together and petitioned the ORC for this rule change to better the experience for the fans? No. But hey, let's just sit back and let others do this for you. Again, its not hard for a single person at any track to get a handful of people and call themselves "the horseman of (insert track names?) association". A voice for the group that races at that track. At my work, we have a boss. Choices were not made by our bosses that we felt best helped our work situation. Since many of the workers are affected by the tips generated by more business, a group has formed that goes to our boss each week with suggestions to which some got green lit, and others were not feasible. We didnt wait for them. We didnt wait for head office to make these choices. Now instead of 2 nights of stuff going on, they are open 5 and the employees are making a fortune and things look great.


Mr Rose, I do not have a lot of time on my hands, as I work in the field that does exactly what you need. I work in promotions. My job is to put people into a building. I hate 90% of the music that is played in my venues. That does not change how my job is. If I had your mentality, and applied your line of thinking, the bands are like you. They should only just show up and play. They however, are not like you. They do all kinds of promotion, and have managers and promoters that do what they request, and that bounce ideas off them. Those people are the ones that I deal with. Do not think for a second that all they do is practice and play. Most of the musicians do promos, radio and television interviews, magazine shoots, and all kinds of stuff that isnt just showing up for the fans and playing.

So far, Mr Rose, you seem to be like the musician that cant figure out why the building is half empty and you are not getting packed houses, and want to blame everyone else, but do not do any of the promotion and making changes that are needed to fill this venue.

Harness racing is not any different. It is just entertainment for the general public. We are in the information age Mr Rose. You might need to realize, that you need to get with it. I googled you. I only found articles about tidbits about you. Let`s just say for a second that I was a fan of one of your horses. I do not see you publishing anything about these horses. I do not see anything that you personally have done that connects me as a fan, to you. Now, google ANY member of ANY NHL team. You can find TONS of stuff that these people have done on MANY sites. You can find out what products they promote, you can see what charity functions they attend. LOTS of stuff. Are you REALLLLLLLLLLLY going to suggest it is all the different tracks you race at`s job to do this for you?

I've tossed out a million suggestions to you and the other horseman, and many seem to think just showing up and driving is all it takes, and others should do the promotion for them. Mr Rose, if you people want to make superstar money, you should realize that superstars do more than just play.

March 25, 2015 - 9:29 amWill I never said the

John Hill SAID...

Will I never said the horseman wouldn't promote the industry when asked because they all do any time,I am saying it's the duty of track owners to promote the business and the horsemans duty is to participate. Do you think the pro athletes make all the promotion and marketing decisions for their teams ? All they do is sit in front of a microphone because it is in their contracts. They leave marketing and promotion to their owners as we do. Horseman for the most part have no marketing skills and rely on their partners, track owners, to take care of that.I have asked you several times in the past what you think track owners responsibilities are and are they living up to them with no response from you. SHOW ME A SINGLE SPORT THAT IS CONTROLED BY THE COMPETITION!!! There isn't one (except for us). We need leadership no doubt but the government will only listen to OHRIA to rubber stamp their decisions. Horsemen realize showing up isn't enough but track owners are fine with the way it is with all their OLG money still pouring in. Give Ted Lindsay a call for us, we need him badly.

March 24, 2015 - 8:29 pmI just came up with an idea.

Sheldon Rose SAID...

I just came up with an idea. Will seems to have a lot of time on his hands. Let's ask him to start an advertising and promotions company for harness racing. We can send him all our ideas on how to improve the sport. He can implement them and make a fortune.

March 24, 2015 - 6:52 pmSheldon, I have no desire to

Will Yamakva SAID...

Sheldon, I have no desire to swim, but that does not mean I cant point out errors in other's strokes.

Again, the leaders of MLB, NHL, NFL, and NBA never played or coached, but they lead REAL professional sports. Continue on the path that you are, and come back to this post when you need the "I told you so".

The NHL, and all other sports leagues were in the same position as you, but the players that compete, banded together and repped themselves. Are you going to pretend that you are incapable of having a real voice? You seem to ignore EVERY comparison I make to sports that are not in the same position as you.


Mr Hill, you said, "As a horseman I expect track owners to do the promoting of the industry as they are business men better suited to do so."

Then you might wanna google Ted Lindsay. He led the players to STOP with that silly mentality and be part of the solution.

You also said, "We all have roles in this game and the horsemans role is to provide race cards."


There isnt one.


March 24, 2015 - 4:58 pmWill if you had your facts

John Hill SAID...

Will if you had your facts straight you would realize you are barking up the wrong tree. Seems to me awhile back you suggested backstretch tours as a promotion, a good idea but all back stretches have closed by track owners. You also complained drivers zip their horses around in the post parade and ignore the fans, it's against ORC rules for drivers to converse with fans or each other in the post parade and also the drivers are loosing up their horses to race while they are zipping around. Will... what do you feel track owners are responsible for and are they blameless for this situation? Are they conducting business to the best of their abilities or just sitting back and counting OLG subsidy money called rent. Mr Decker... horsemen do not have a vote on anything because OHRIA has been given our vote by proxy and that's as close as we come as individuals to having a say in anything. As a former horseman you should know rule breakers are handled by the ORC and not the horsemen. I have asked naysayers several times if track owners have lived up to their responsibilities and so far no replies.

March 24, 2015 - 4:17 pmMr Hill. I'm responding to

Ted Decker SAID...

Mr Hill.
I'm responding to the integration issue and certainly have no desire to touch base with the horsemans committee,that sir is your job. I personally feel that slots shouldn't even be at racetracks so therefore there should be no money dispersed to horseman. As far as speaking with the ORC, I can assure you my out box is full of sent e mails regarding hearings,deceisons,stays,investigations in particular regarding positive tests. Both the ORC and the OHRIA are run by people who should not be in this capacity. Once again for your membership to demand change. As for the racetrack owners,they are coining exactly what they want,operating a Casino which what they really want. My only concern is protecting the public and to date this is not happening.

March 24, 2015 - 3:59 pmWill...if you want to learn

Sheldon Rose SAID...

Will...if you want to learn to swim, you have to get in the water. You don't stay on the shore pretending to know.

March 24, 2015 - 9:46 amMr Decker you should be

John Hill SAID...

Mr Decker you should be asking OHRIA our self appointed leaders these questions as we have been told to put our faith in them. Ask the ORC what it has done to stop the rule breakers. As a horseman I expect track owners to do the promoting of the industry as they are business men better suited to do so. You want to blame the horsemen but we have the least say of anyone involved in the racing game. As I stated earlier we are controlled and regulated by the completion (OLG,liberals) and our hands are tied. Track owners have sold out to OLG so there will be no assistance from them as well. If I were to go to the ORC and demand they clear up the integrity issue or track owners and demand they promote and grow the racing industry I would likely be escorted out by security. We all have roles in this game and the horsemans role is to provide race cards. What do you think the track owners roles are in the industry and are they fulfilling those roles?

March 24, 2015 - 7:11 amDo you not vote in a

Ted Decker SAID...

Do you not vote in a committee to represent the horse people? Do you have a contract with the race track owners? If so, and your not happy with how things are being run or the money you race for then I would suggest change has to happen.As for becoming a participant..........I raced for 19 years throughout Ontario and Florida prior to the slot money. Have no desire to get back in under its current state.

March 24, 2015 - 4:04 amHudson's Bay sells Levis, Joe

Will Yamakva SAID...

Hudson's Bay sells Levis, Joe Boxers, Tommy Hilfiger, and many other names. Are you going to pretend none of them companies have ads out? None of them companies do any of their own advertising?

We have our facts straight. Just keep on with that it is only your job to race, and realize that continuing to think that all you have to do is race, is gonna sink your own ship.

All real pro athletes are a MAJOR part of the advertising and face of the game.

Almost every star on the Leafs, and Raptors and even the Argos and Toronto Rock appear in ads and do promotions for the game/team. They do not just show up and play. Those players get agents, marketing teams and promotion departments behind them. Are you going to pretend they do not do that Mr Rose?

March 23, 2015 - 9:43 pmTed...we don't have control

Sheldon Rose SAID...

Ted...we don't have control over the industry. We supply the inventory. Just like suppliers to Hudsons Bay. The supplier doesn't advertise or promote. The store does. We don't enforce the rules. The ORC does. Become a participant and you'll find out. We can debate all day long. Get your facts right. Nobody is eating cake except the government.

March 23, 2015 - 2:50 pmI agree with Will totally. Mr

Ted Decker SAID...

I agree with Will totally. Mr Rose. Please tell me what,not only since the slot revenue dried up what harness racing has done to promote its industry? What has it done to protect the punter from rule-breakers? Nothing on both counts. Please don't tell me that the participants don't have any control over these issues. Stop blaming the government and make your own changes to start. You all loved and had great relationships with racetrack owners when the slot money was rolling. Now as you mention they are your nemesis but you gladly get back in bed with them if slot money once again was available. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

March 23, 2015 - 11:27 amI totally agree Will that the

Randy Young SAID...

I totally agree Will that the Horse Racing Industry needs to do more to attract more fans and become more relevant ... particularly to the younger generation.

... but don't fool yourself, the government helps out hundreds of industries and they had a sweet deal with the Horse Racing Industry that provided over a billion dollars a year to the Ontario Government while helping the industry to survive ... all that was needed is a little fine tuning. The dysfunctional Mcguinty Government decided to go in a different direction ... for nefarious reasons.

You'll note that the OLG no longer shows Financial Statements on their site. I suspect those huge savings they predicted didn't materialize. In the mean time the economic impact of closing race tracks and losing investment from breeders etc. has cost the Ontario Government dearly.

March 23, 2015 - 10:27 amWill Yamakava, I am a

John Hill SAID...

Will Yamakava, I am a horseman and I realize our industry is floundering. Mr Gural is exactly what we need as well as any other visionary who can help us. Our biggest mistake as horsemen was putting our faith in track owners, whose responsibilities were to grow and promote the industry under SARP, who are not racing enthusiasts but wanna be casino owners. What am I supposed to do train horses in the morning, race at night and slip into the grandstand between races and make sure things are being done properly ? If horsemen or at least a racing enthusiast owned the tracks,with the money OLG pays current owners we could address the problems stated. We are over regulated by the competition and have been betrayed by track owners. I do not expect any help from track owners or the liberals as we continue our death spiral. As a horseman marketing and promotions are not my strong suit, we have been asked to put our faith in OHRIA so you should be complaining to them. Also we are being led by by three people who had never been to a standardbred horse race prior to the slot fiasco, Wynn, Buchanan and Snobelen.

March 23, 2015 - 8:51 amWill - all you do is blame

Sheldon Rose SAID...

Will - all you do is blame and find fault. Come up with a practical and viable business plan. And realize this. We don't control our business. All we do is supply the inventory. We are at the mercy of the race track owners and the government.

March 23, 2015 - 4:47 amMr Young, what has the horse

Will Yamakva SAID...

Mr Young, what has the horse racing industry done over those same 2 years?

You have unified voice yet? You have any real site that caters to fans and makes stars and recognizable faces like every other sport has? Have you got your sport on TV yet to the point the average person can say," hey, lets watch a few races"?

Continue to look to the government to fix your problems. Then again, that is what you all did when slots came, they fixed your problems then. And here you are 16 years later, looking back at the government.

The answer to all your problems, is not with the government, and until you horseman realize this, your sport will continue to struggle/die.

Instead of looking at Mr Gural and visionaries to re-invent the wheel and make your sport relevant to fans/gamblers, you are looking at the government to fix a sport that would have died 16 years ago before the slots came.

March 21, 2015 - 10:26 pmIf the whole situation was

Sheldon Rose SAID...

If the whole situation was resolved, they wouldn't have a job.

March 21, 2015 - 3:41 pmRandy Young I find it hard to

Randy Young I find it hard to believe you don't know "what have they been doing." Let me help you in that department. Collecting a pay cheque and feathering their nests and promising everyone everything. You see Randy unlike Horseman they do not have accounts receivable or accounts payable!!

March 20, 2015 - 3:39 pmDear harness racing

Dear harness racing industry:

Since Ontario’s net debt was more than $267 billion at the end of March. We have a few other items we need to look after first. Please hang in there, continue to breed your horses, continue to buy yearlings and continue to race for the huge purses at the B tracks.

In regards to the OLG revenue sharing lottery with the harness racing industry goes, we will get back to you when we feel like it.

Continued success and happy racing

Your Partners
The Ontario Government

March 19, 2015 - 10:38 pmMINISTER LEAL can't even get

MINISTER LEAL can't even get the dates of racing at KAWARTHA DOWNS posted on your site yet, sure he is doing a great job.
Give me a break

March 19, 2015 - 7:08 pmThis is getting to be

Randy Young SAID...

This is getting to be somewhat of a farce. I believe it was just over 2 years ago that Premier Wynne instructed the OLG to make a priority of integrating with the Horse Racing Industry ... and to do it expeditiously. What exactly have they been doing over the past 2 years?

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