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WEG To Cease Live Racing In April 2013?

Published: June 21, 2012 12:45 pm ET

Last Comment: June 27, 2012 8:26 pm ET | 34 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

On Thursday, June 21 at Woodbine Racetrack, after the post-position draw for the 153rd running of the Queen's Plate, Woodbine Entertainment Group President and CEO Nick Eaves said that if an agreement isn't reached with the Ontario Government to work out some sort of "operating model" Woodbine may have to cease to operate after March 31, 2013.

“If we don’t have an operating model to take us past the first of April 2013, then I can’t see a way for us to operate, and if we’re not operating there won’t be a Queen’s Plate,” Eaves, according to a report by the CBC, said in a media scrum after the draw ended.

“It shouldn’t be interpreted as a threat," Eaves continued. "It should be interpreted as a realistic outcome in the event a program (the slots-at-racetracks program) that has worked as successfully as it has isn’t replaced with something that can support racing in the context of an overall gaming strategy.”

Eaves did not particularly mention Mohawk Racetrack in his quoted comments, but, as Woodbine Racetrack is, the Campbellville, Ont. raceway is run by WEG.

The contents of an official WEG release on the subject appears below. The release is followed by a link to a .pdf document which lists letters of support from multiple, international racing agencies.


Government decisions devastate industry and Woodbine Entertainment Group

In a speech to launch the 153rd running of the Queen's Plate, Nick Eaves, president and CEO of Woodbine Entertainment Group announced that this may be the last year for this iconic Canadian horse race. The Queen's Plate is the oldest annual sporting event in Canada.

"Earlier this year, the Ontario Government made the decision to arbitrarily cancel the commercial contracts between Ontario's racetracks and the OLG. The cancellation of these contracts will devastate the province's horse racing and breeding industry which contributes $4.5 billion to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)," said Eaves. "As a result of the Government's current position, premier race events such as the Queen's Plate as well as day-to-day horseracing are in jeopardy."

The cancellation of the Slots at Racetracks program is ending an extremely successful private/public partnership in the name of modernizing the OLG operations. The racetracks, as the private partner, have invested capital and provided their land, facilities, infrastructure, and parking, making this program the most profitable of the OLG's land-based gaming venues. This program has added $14.4 billion to the Provincial Treasury since its inception in 1999, with WEG's facilities contributing approximately half of that amount. Despite the enormous success of this program, the Province's current comprehensive gaming strategy does not include horse racing.

The Government has indicated that the industry must now be self-sustaining in a market where, pursuant to the Criminal Code, the provincial government has a monopoly on all other forms of gambling. The OLG Modernization Plan is all about growth and expansion of the government's gambling business. "How are we expected to compete when the referee is also our opponent?" Eaves emphasized.

In order to accommodate the racetrack slots program, tracks were required to change their business model significantly, including eliminating admissions and parking revenue. Revenues for the horse-racing industry were exclusively from the bets made by its customers. Horseracing customers provided a ready-made customer base for the OLG racetrack slot operations, which have cannibalized wagering on horseracing. These changes were factored into the 20% commission paid as rent to the industry under the commercial agreements. This 20% commission was confirmed as appropriate by the government in 2010, when WEG and the OLG amended WEG's long-term agreement in order to build out the slots expansion at Woodbine in which WEG invested $32 million.

The Slots at Racetracks partnership has been the envy of other jurisdictions. Its success has elevated Ontario's horseracing and breeding industry, giving this agricultural sector international recognition and enabling the industry to be a major contributor to the provincial economy. Eaves concluded his remarks by saying, "WEG hopes that the government will include the successful and participatory integration of horse racing into the province's overall gaming strategy. Otherwise it is hard to see the numbers working to allow WEG to be more than, at best, a pale imitation of its current status as a renowned international leader in both the thoroughbred and standardbred industries and, the anchor of Ontario's horseracing and breeding industry."

(Letters of support for WEG, the Slots-at-Racetracks Program and the Ontario Racing Industry.)

June 27, 2012 - 8:26 pmif daily handles ( at the WEG

bill gemmill SAID...

if daily handles ( at the WEG ) tracks of anywhere from $1 million to $2.5 million per day bet ( higher on special days ) on the runners and standardbreds are not enough for WEG to continue offering horse racing then what hope is there for the entire industry in Ontario when the slot tap is turned off next year?

June 27, 2012 - 6:49 pmMr.Riga is 100% Correct.

Mr.Riga is 100% Correct. Although I have disagreed with Mr.Riga on a few of his post before I always thought of him as informative, knowledgeable and passionate and now I get to agree with him 100%.
I agree with all of the points he made in this post including the ones that touch on the politics of what is happening however I want to focus on the points he made about racing itself especially the point(s)about the "big races" and "big nights."
Before I go on I understand about purse pools, added money, stake payments and the logistics that go with them. With that said why is the NA CUP 1.5M? Why not 1M and have a 500K race for 4 years old on NA CUP night or even better two weeks before? Call it the PEPSI GOLD CUP? (Total Stake Payments for the NA CUP in 2012 was about 650K so WEG and PEPSi came up with 850K somewhere).
Why is the Canadian Pacing Derby 830K? Throw in the 100K from the Mohawk Gold Cup - this race would already be replaced by the 4yr race on Cup Night - and the 345K (eliminations and finals) from the Spring Pacing Championship - an event that garners zero attention outside of racing - and you can have two big FFA events with 75K eliminations(assuming two eliminations) and 500K Finals or even 100K eliminations(maybe an incentive to make the eliminations more exciting?) and 450K finals. Now you will have the best older pacers racing in "marquee" events three times. The CPD will still be the CPD raced on the Metro Card and the second can be called the Greenwood Stakes and have it on the same night as the new formed Canadian Internation Trot a 500K mile and half invitational trot that would see the top 3 or 4 or 5 "Canadian" horses race against a field of the top trotters from France, Sweden, Italy, US, etc) Schedule this night right before or after the Breeders Crown regardless if the BC is held at Woodbine or not. Where is the 500K gonna come from? Well this year the Maple Trot is 750K Guaranteed. Well make it 500K guaranteed(it would still be the richest race for FFA Trotters in North America by 200K). Take that 250K plus the 250K you would get from scrapping the Glory's Comet and presto there is your 500k for the Canadian International. I could go on and on. Again this is just one mans humble opinion.

Nino DeChellis

June 26, 2012 - 3:10 pmWhat can we do suggestion: If

What can we do suggestion:

If OHRIA was to produce a handout entitled the truth about the ending of the Slots at Racetracks program horsepeople and their supporters could volunteer to hand them out to patrons entering the slots parlours at the tracks.

We need to get them on our side as well, there are thousands of people who enjoy the slots being at the racetracks. We need their voices as well to tell this Premier, that he's really f'ed this time.

June 25, 2012 - 9:53 amThere must be a hidden agenda

Judy Farrow SAID...

There must be a hidden agenda - Something unsavoury, perhaps, totally beyond the control of the industry, at this point. Maybe there is an interest by individuals in Woodbine Racetrack? (a developer, an American Casino operator, TB Racetrack operator)This is way bigger than our industry. Just food for thought, but since the Government is sticking to a one line answer regarding SAR - when it's obvious that OLG's figures are dubious - you start to think in a cynical way.

June 22, 2012 - 10:38 pmI always "thought" the NDP

Rick Allen SAID...

I always "thought" the NDP fought for workers jobs workers rights etc. But the NDP Leader has been VERY quiet re: this very serious issue.I don't recall hearing her saying a thing about whats taking place right now in the Horse Racing Industry and she has a track (Flamboro) in her home town!!!

With approx: 60,000.00 jobs at stake who would "think" the workers party would be more vocal. Or perhaps she and dumb Dalton made a secret pact. Oh by the way Andrea and Dalton 60,000.00 jobs lost equals at least 60,000.00 VOTES come next election,likely MORE if a horseperson has a spouse etc.

June 22, 2012 - 10:06 amI am a racing fan. Have been

Joe Riga SAID...

I am a racing fan. Have been for a long time. However if you ask me the real key to all of this is twofold. One,(and this being the most important for long term longevity)the tracks absolutley must find a way to make racing appealing again. They must find a way to bring fans to the door. This will have two profounf effects. One it will help with the finances of the track by virtue of incresed handles. Two it will send a message to the government of the day that fans enjoy and care about racing so don't mess with them. The second thing tracks must do is to somehow obtain a new agreement with the OLG and government on how slot and casino revenues will be split. Personally I find it a little hard to believe that in the last agreement the industry settled for a mere10-15% while the government raked in 80%. Critical to all this must be that any future agreement must have legal ramifications if it is abruptly broken by either party.
Having said all this I do feel the racetracks can do a much better job of spending the revenues they do receive. For example, why do purses need to be so high? Why doe the NA Cup and Queens Plate as well as other races need to be $1,000,000 or over? Why not make these races worth say $500,000 and use the extra funds to have even more stakes races which theoretically would mean more exciting cards because they wopuld attract better horses. Why have only one or two big races a year when you can have maybe 7-8 worth half a mill each? I would watch the NA Cup or the Canadian Pacing Derby or the Maple Leaf trot or the Queens Plate whether they are running for a mill or half a mill because the quality of the racing would still be as good. Why not give an opportunity for more owners to make more money thereby increasing the chances that more new owners will be attracted to the game.
Lastly, if you are a horse racing fan as I am,albeit a very vocAl and critical one, YOU NEED TO GET INVOLVED IN THIS FIGHT. This is not just about taking away 60000 jobs, although to be fair that is the most important issue. This is also about taking away our entertainment, our culture. Governments today of all stripes spend recklessly and when it catches up to them they solve their problems by taking on the easiest way out. If anyone out there believes that simply opening up new casinos is going to solve any governments budget crisis they are living in a fantasy world. This government will simply succeed in ruining the horse racing industry and many more assssociated with it. And in 10 years the government wof that time will still be complaining that they are unable toi balance the budget. At that time we will of course have no racing entertainment. It will have been replaced by robots playing slots at a bunch of casinos and all the soical and criminal problems they bring with it. McGuinty NEEDS TO BE STOPPED. He has no idea how to govern and balance the books and he should be replaced by someone with freash ideas who can bring in revenues while retaining our traditions and culture of which horseracing has been a part of for a very long time.

June 22, 2012 - 9:06 amThe assault on horseracing

The assault on horseracing was not in the budget so NDP abstaining didn't mean anything. It is up to all horsepeople to now get busy and really fight. All we are doing is letting OHRIA set up committees and talk.

June 22, 2012 - 6:39 amThe voters of Ontario are so

The voters of Ontario are so angry with the Liberals due to high hydro bills e-health and Ornge and the killing off of industry that looks as though there will not be one Liberal candidate elected in the next election. The public are talking about it in Madoc. I haven't seen this kind of interest in years. Time for Ms. Horwath to start doing the job she was elected to do. Abstaining doesn't reflect good job performance. sincerely Bruce T. Winning

June 22, 2012 - 2:13 amI dont usually post comments

Rob Brown SAID...

I dont usually post comments but I'm tired of reading all the comments here when in reality no one from the industry in my mind is stepping up to put up a fight up for their livelihood. I'm no longer involved in the industry but still a huge fan and supporter of it. What happens in the long run will not effect my livelihood or the bread I put on the table for my family, it will only effect my enjoyment of the sport. I sit here and scratch my head everyday since this all started and wonder why no one or a bunch of you or all of you involved in the industry and make a living at it dont stand up for yourselves and do something besides talk and make comments ? Lets be honest, some of you have made a good if not great living over the yrs racing horses. So why not put a little money you've all made back into it to try and save it ? If a percentage of top drivers, trainers and owners got together and hired a lawyer or lawyers to speak on your behalf and get some answers from McGuinty and Duncan ! These 2 snakes have yet to answer any questions regarding any moves they plan on making. We as tax payers pay their salaries, McGuinty runs our province, so why shouldnt he be required to answer questions when asked to do so ? He's not untouchable ! The old saying is you have to spend a little to make alittle. If it was my source of income that these 2 idiots were playing with I'd spend every dollar I had in order to keep making a dollar down the road. I watch the news as often as I can, where's any stories or headlines regarding this industry ? I've seen very little on the news regarding racing in ontario. As far as protests go, in my opinion their a waist of time and effort, do you honestly think standing outside of parliment with a few signs will change anything ? McGuinty on most days could care less who protests what the gov does ! I dont know what the answer is for this industry but I do believe not enough is being done in order to save it. Maybe I'm dreaming and nothing can be done but deep down I believe if everyone in this industry sticks together and puts up one hell of a fight something can be done or changed. 60,000 ppl out of work and thats ok ? Watch the news, more often than not they mention the unemployment rate here in ontario, If its such a concern why is it ok for 1 person to pull the plug on 60,000 people ? It not ok and yet as of right now its going to happen ! Talking and posting comments will do nothing ! Their all snakes in the government but its time this snake (McGuinty) gets more than he's bargained for, get some "power" as they say in horse racing and hire lawyers or whatever it takes and make this puke answer some questions ! Make him make time for you !!! Like I've said, We pay his damn salary !

Rob Brown

June 21, 2012 - 11:59 pmThe students in Quebec will

Tim Dean SAID...

The students in Quebec will not see any change in the direction of the government ...but you're right we havent accomplished much....we spent 3 months arguing the word subsidy......which really wouldn't have changed anything.
The 20% was spread to so many groups
and there was so much money no one really cared until the annoucemnt of the cancelation of the slots funding. Now we continue to go to tracks every night with horses purse nights $60,000.00 and bet $8,000. Next April purses nights will be $10,000 and betting will still most likely be $8000...the horsemen for sure lose but the public doesn't ...
Now we have this racing train, full steam ahead, $3.1 million dollar purses last Saturday at WEG but the track ends next April
Wouldn't it be smart to slow the train and build a little track...

June 21, 2012 - 11:45 pmNick Eaves could be the

Nick Eaves could be the saviour in all this. No track is safe, not even WO and Mohawk.

A sign right after the Plate would be good. In the Winners Circle. Spring out a nice white cardboard that says---- N. Eaves 1
Fiberals No Score

Now, where did I put that phone number of that printer???

June 21, 2012 - 10:14 pmHoward, have you heard of the

Tim Bates SAID...

Howard, have you heard of the BNAA? The royalty tossed us aside in 1931, why would they care now?

June 21, 2012 - 7:18 pmIf the Queen was a taxpayer

If the Queen was a taxpayer in Ontario, or offered to put up some of her own money for Ontario horse racing, perhaps at that point her opinion would matter. As it is now, it doesnt really matter what the Queen thinks.

June 21, 2012 - 6:47 pmwait until he comes back from

wait until he comes back from Ascot and any racetracks in England, do not forget,they race on grass all year.

And ask him about the financing of the industry ! Do they know about video poker?

It is time you understand that in England (like France, Sweden etc..) video poker, casino, lotto are competitors of the bookmaker and the paris mutuel. They fight very hard to earn the most of the money gaming market.

The video poker has nothing to do with the horse racing industry. Too bad, like in Quebec, you let loto ontario steal you fans and pari mutuel fans the create the dynamic in the public

June 21, 2012 - 6:32 pmNo surprise here, WEG closed

Ian Dow SAID...

No surprise here, WEG closed the door after the horse has bolted!

June 21, 2012 - 6:22 pmnight after night, the

Diane Lord SAID...

night after night, the students in the province of quebec(montreal) stand together and demonstrate in the streets legally, against the liberal government hike in tuition fees, blocking traffic, causing kaos in the downtown area. and what did the horse people do to save their livlihood and their industry? Nothing!!!!!

June 21, 2012 - 4:59 pmJust forwarded WEG article to

Bev Heywood SAID...

Just forwarded WEG article to The London Times!
Took me over an hour but tracked down The London Times world news department, sent an e-mail and forwarded the WEG article.... would have forwarded it to the Queen but didn't have her e-mail .

[email protected]

June 21, 2012 - 4:27 pmWe are still 9 months away

Norm Brunet SAID...

We are still 9 months away from ground zero. I have no doubt that this industry will show it's character sooner then later. Enough said.

June 21, 2012 - 4:24 pmTIME TO GET IN MEDIA's face

TIME TO GET IN MEDIA's face at the Queens Plate as well hand out information pamphlets to the public. The information has to be concise and to the point. Not a long story or else it will not be read. Enough to get the TRUE story across and get the general public upset.This is the perfect venue to get the story on TV and newspapers.

Just out of interest I would like to know which one of these %#@ will show up from the Ontario Government and be part of a welcoming committee?

June 21, 2012 - 4:22 pmGeorge, FYI Patrick Mckenna's

John Doyle SAID...

George, FYI

Patrick Mckenna's uncle John had horses at Flamboro with Bill Budd in previous years.

June 21, 2012 - 3:48 pmThe timing of Mr. Eaves

The timing of Mr. Eaves statement on the eve of Woodbine's oldest, most prestigous race is certainly interesting. Undoubtedly,it will have its greatest effect in terms of media exposure.

What is also appearant is that WEG has finally come to the conclusion that they are not "safe". Whisperers throughout the horse racing community have always wondered why the WEG response has been so muted.

Perhaps the angriest I have been in this whole drawn out affair was the day prior to the opening of the Woodbine meet. WEG VP of publicity/ communications Glen Crouter appeared on Prime Time Sports to talk about the upcoming thoroughbred meet. When asked point blank by Bob McCowan about all the hullabaloo with the horsemen, Crouter responded "oh,no....everythings just fine."

Seems like his boss doesn't think so anymore!

June 21, 2012 - 3:22 pmLol I agree! William Shatner

Chuck Ibey SAID...

Lol I agree! William Shatner also has owned Standardbreds.

June 21, 2012 - 3:10 pmI feel this announcement

I feel this announcement comes a little late. Why did WEG wait so long? What did they think was going to happen to the Horse Racing Industry? I read the comments on the link for CBC and it's plain to see that the urbanites have no sympathy for the Horse Industry and generally seem to not understand how the revenue sharing program was helping ALL Ontario taxpayers. What is it going to take to make people realize what is happening here?

June 21, 2012 - 3:01 pmHere is another strategy to

Georg Leber SAID...

Here is another strategy to add to the good ideas already expressed here.

It would help to get some celebrity power. Isn't Justin Bieber from Stratford Ontario? Surely Stratford would be affected.

I know that Patrick McKenna and Martin Short are from Hamilton (Flamboro)as is Brian Williams and Steve Smith (Red Green).

I'm sure others can think of more celebrities that can step up on our behalf. Let's face it, nobody listens to a research scientist yet the public will all listen intently to a 21 yr old kid that can score 60 goals.

What do others think?

By the way I like that Mr. Eaves spoke up at this time. I look forward to the news stories from that interview. Nice Exposure. The Queen's Plate is the big one for a lot of people and maybe there should be plugs throughout the day on CBC.

Georg Leber-ICR Racing

June 21, 2012 - 2:19 pmMEDIA ATTENTION... WEG- You


WEG- You should be more receptive to those who are trying to get the word out via any form he or she has at their disposal.So the next time we chase a brother or a sister off the property for displaying a sign in the winners circle just remember April 2013 is just around and not only will we suffer a huge loss it has become evident so will you!!!

June 21, 2012 - 2:06 pmThis morning on Canada AM

Terry DeVos SAID...

This morning on Canada AM they had an interview with a gentleman on his way to the Ascot Race in England. He said it was the Queen's favourite day of the year. I too thought of what she would have to say regarding what has happened to the Horse Industry.! Does she know? I am in the process of writing and sending every possible article on the destruction of this sport in this country. We all should. WEG has got the ball rolling with this announcement to the masses, let's keep it going.

June 21, 2012 - 2:02 pmI'm not a racehorse owner,

I'm not a racehorse owner, but know people who are and would like to share my opinion with those who are involved with racing.

The general public does not understand what is going on with the end of the slots-at-racetrack programme. Many people still believe that it is a subsidy, because they are under the impression that the government owns the tracks. They know nothing about why the slots were put at the tracks in the first place. They have no information regarding the OLG's plans to put slots in bingo parlours and that the bingo operators would receive 47% of the revenue, as opposed to the 20% now going to racing.

Anytime there is an article remotely associated to ending the slots-at-racetrack programme everyone involved needs to start posting comments on websites that are not associated with racing; sites like the CBC, National Post, Toronto Sun and Star and local newspapers. The horse people know what a travesty this is, but if you read some of the comments on those sites mentioned above, you will understand how much misinformation is being posted and once it is out there, people believe it to be the truth. The MPP's, from all parties, should be bombarded with emails and phone calls every single day. In an effort to help, I probably send out at least 2 or 3 emails a day myself. It might not work, but if it isn't tried, we'll never know.

June 21, 2012 - 1:53 pmAND SO ON AND SO ON...No one

Norm Brunet SAID...

AND SO ON AND SO ON...No one can operate on a thin budget and horseman can't pay their bills with ribbons. Thus goes a sure thing industry for a MAYBE prayer that the new strategic plan will work but fill the liberal coffers for the 2015 election. If they are so brilliant then WHY can't they balance a budget.
Yes, spend it on education. Teachers only have had a 50% pay increase since the liberals took over 8 years ago.
You've given everything away the last 2 terms and now you want it back starting with us. Thanks Dalton !

June 21, 2012 - 1:53 pmThis is one true and

Peggy Powell SAID...

This is one true and realistic account of what will happen in the near future. I just wonder WHY it wasn't stated much earlier than this. I fear that we have waited too long.

June 21, 2012 - 1:41 pmRead my post in the article

Ken Walker SAID...

Read my post in the article announcing that the budget had passed. I stated that this race was in jeoprody. Funny how things turn out. I wish you all well in Ontario. See you at the fairs.

June 21, 2012 - 1:29 pmhand out pamphlets at all

hand out pamphlets at all racetracks and let the general public who attend the QUEENS PLATE June 24, 2012 know that this may in fact be the LAST time there is such a race....The general public can blame THE LIBERALS for CANCELLING such a prestigious race
Thank You have done a fine job as usual !!!!!!!!!!NOT

June 21, 2012 - 1:26 pmI wonder what the Queen

I wonder what the Queen thinks of all this.After all she is our Queen isn't she and technically our Premier reports to her through the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario The Honorable David C.Onley.So have we been keeping her informed? Does she know there may never be another Queen's Plate? Does she know that yearlings and foals may have to be euthanized? Does she know that her government in the Province of Ontario and their trusted agency the OLG are destroying a very vibrant industry? Does she know thousands of workers in the equine world are about to loose their jobs.I doubt it !! SO WHY DOESN"T SHE???

June 21, 2012 - 1:10 pmWAY TO GO WEG !!!! you tell

WAY TO GO WEG !!!! you tell them...maybe they will listen to you...
See what you LIBERALS have done now...Liberals are so smart.

June 21, 2012 - 12:57 pmPity this wasnt announced to

Roy Steele SAID...

Pity this wasnt announced to the NDP Clan before they abstained from voting yesterday food for thought Ladies and Gentleman I do believe the stakes in this suicidal poker game have been raised.

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