Plan For Ontario Racing Released

Published: June 28, 2013 10:22 am EDT

On Friday, June 28 the Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel released "Toward a Sustainable Future – A Draft Plan for Horse Racing in Ontario", as mandated by Ontario's Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel

June 21, 2013

The Honourable Kathleen Wynne
Minister of Agriculture and Food
Government of Ontario

Dear Minister:

It is our pleasure to submit this draft of our plan for a sustainable horse racing industry in Ontario. It reflects our consensus on the next steps the government and the industry should now take to optimize and grow horse racing in the province.

We look forward to a lively and constructive conversation with stakeholders and the public to chart a path for the industry to take responsibility for its future.

Elmer Buchanan
John Snobelen
John Wilkinson

Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. From a Model to a Plan
  3. Key Objectives: Optimize and Grow
  4. New Ontario Horse Racing Plan - the Details
  5. Conclusion: Driving Continuous Improvement

  1. Executive Summary

  • In May 2013, the Minister of Agriculture and Food, the Honourable Kathleen Wynne, requested the Horse Racing Industry Transition panel provide a concrete plan for a long-term sustainable horse racing industry in Ontario, effective April 1, 2014. The panel consists of three former Ontario Cabinet ministers. This document is a draft plan, for consultation. After considering responses from stakeholders and the public, the panel will produce a final plan.
  • The panel was retained in June 2012 to make recommendations on how the Ontario government could help the horse racing industry adjust to the end of the Slots at Racetracks Program (SARP). In its two reports, the panel found that dependence on slots revenue - a funding source unrelated to wagering by horseplayers - had divorced the industry from its customers and spurred artificial and unsustainable growth. As a result, much of the industry today is built on racing that is not attractive to the consumer. This has to change. At the same time, the panel found that a sustainable horse racing industry requires a measure of public funding, though much less than SARP.
  • The panel concludes that the path to success lies in aligning economic interests. The panel recognizes that gaming in Canada is a highly regulated industry. We therefore acknowledge that the final plan for horse racing in Ontario must comply with all existing laws, regulations and authorities.
  • To firmly link the industry with the horseplayer and fan, the panel now concludes that future public funding for horse racing should be based on a dollar-for-dollar match with the industry commission on pari-mutuel wagering. In this way, public investment will reinforce rather than undermine the dictates of the market.
  • The panel observes that nearly two thirds of pari-mutuel wagering in Ontario is on foreign races. On the other hand, Ontario tracks export their live-racing signals to other markets, netting about $20 million a year from wagering outside the province.
  • The panel finds no public interest in using government funds to encourage wagering on foreign product. A major aim of the plan is to strengthen and promote live racing in Ontario - that is, races actually run in the province. Live racing generates more economic benefits in terms of jobs on the track, on the farm and in spinoff industries than do simulcasts of races in other jurisdictions. In distributing matching funds to the industry, the panel therefore proposes to use a formula aligned with the commissions earned from wagering on live Ontario races and also reflecting exports. The government will invest in success as defined by the marketplace. It will not subsidize failure as SARP did by supporting racing that does not attract customers.
  • To govern a reformed industry, the panel recommends the creation of a new market-driven central body - Ontario Live Racing (OLR). OLR would consolidate all industry revenues and share them among industry partners on the basis of consumer demand for live Ontario racing.
  • The panel has been asked to facilitate a more integrated relationship between horse racing and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG). The purpose of integration is to align the interests of the horse racing industry and the OLG to enhance gaming revenue to the province and provide a stable base of funding for live racing in Ontario.
  • In the panel's view, non-track betting (including wagering at off-track betting sites, telewagering and online wagering) is essentially a gaming activity. The panel therefore proposes that all non-track wagering should be administered by the OLR and willing racetracks with input and, where appropriate, direction from OLG, through mutually beneficial relationships. This structure would provide for the use of OLG expertise in optimizing the non-track wager and facilitate the introduction of race-themed gaming products (historic racing, race-based lotteries, etc.). Integration should give the OLG an incentive to expand non-track wagering and introduce new racing-themed products, generating more revenues for the government and the industry.
  • As a further step to boost investment in Ontario live racing, the panel also proposes to direct industry commissions from on-track and off-track wagering to OLR. In addition, OLR would take charge of the savings from Ontario's pari-mutuel tax reduction.
  • OLR would distribute the consolidated industry revenues - including all public funds and pari-mutuel commissions - to the three breeds based on their share of wagering on live Ontario racing.
  • As the linchpin of a new industry governance structure, OLR would take on the current non-regulatory roles of the Ontario Racing Commission - including coordination of the racing calendar and direction of horse improvement programs. OLR would also organize the common marketing and branding of Ontario horse racing.
  • The new governance structure would include three breed-based divisions: Standardbred Live, Thoroughbred Live and Quarter Horse Live. These organizations would develop the racing calendar, conduct live racing, encourage fan participation and operate horse improvement programs within their respective breeds. As well, they would work with the respective horsepersons group and tracks to arrange a split of purses and track operating costs.
  • Structural changes are necessary to optimize the industry's operations. This especially so in the standardbred sector, which was the most reliant on SARP and most affected by its termination. The panel urges creation of a world-class racing circuit to embrace all premium and signature standardbred racing in Ontario. Designed to appeal to horseplayers and fans, the circuit would be hosted at five tracks located within a commercially practical shipping distance.
  • The horse is the heart of the racing industry. The panel believes that the existing Horse Improvement Program has overemphasized purse support for races that are restricted to Ontario horses. Recognizing successful results in unrestricted competition might provide more of an incentive to improve Ontario breeds. The program should be redesigned with a focus on developing quality and rewarding excellence.
  • The panel recognizes that several racetracks have entered into multi-year agreements with the government. We therefore acknowledge that the final plan for horse racing must comply with these agreements, except as mutually agreed.
  • The panel looks forward to constructive consultation with stakeholders and the public on how Ontario horse racing can take responsibility for its own future.

  1. From a Model to a Plan

The Horse Racing Industry Transition panel was originally created in June 2012 to make recommendations on how the Ontario government could help the horse racing industry adjust to the end of the Slots at Racetracks Program (SARP). The panel consists of three former Ontario Cabinet ministers.

In May 2013, the Minister of Agriculture and Food, the Honourable Kathleen Wynne, requested the panel provide a concrete plan for a long-term sustainable horse racing industry in Ontario, effective April 1, 2014. This document is a draft plan, for consultation. It reflects the panel's consensus to date. After considering responses from stakeholders and the public, the panel will produce a final plan.

Panel's Earlier Findings

In its consensus Interim Report in August 2012, the panel concluded that it would be a mistake to reinstate SARP. The program provided far more funds than necessary to stabilize the industry - its original purpose. Moreover, with more than 60 per cent of purse revenue - that is, the prize money awarded in races - coming from SARP, the industry came to rely on a funding stream that was unrelated to wagering by horseplayers. As a result, the industry became disconnected from its customers and had little incentive to face the challenges of a changing entertainment marketplace by investing in a better consumer experience.

At the same time, the panel found that a thriving, world-class horse racing industry required a measure of public funding, though much less than the $345 million provided by SARP in 2011-12. Scanning international jurisdictions, the panel could not find a single example of a viable horse racing industry without some form of public support.

The panel emphasized that any further public investment in the Ontario industry should be based on clear public interest principles, namely:

  • accountability
  • transparency
  • renewed focus on the consumer and
  • positive return to taxpayers.

A Year of Transition

In its consensus Final Report in October 2012, the panel proposed a new Sustainable Horse Racing Model for the conduct of the industry, based on the above principles. To strengthen the link between the industry and its customers, the model called for all racing purse revenue to come from the industry's commission on pari-mutuel wagering.1 (The industry commission is about 20 per cent of the total amount wagered by horseplayers, less deductions for taxes.) Under this approach the total purse money available declined by about half. The model also reduced the number of race days by about half to maintain sizable average purses that can compete with other jurisdictions.

In the past, the industry commission was split 50-50 between racetracks, which used the money to cover their operating costs, and purses. With the industry share of wagering devoted entirely to purses, racetracks required public funding to continue to operate. Moreover, Ontario's highly regarded Horse Improvement Program (HIP) was funded mainly through SARP and the industry commission. Under the model, this program also needed public support. The panel recommended an investment of $180 million in new public funds over three years to offset racetrack operating expenses and guarantee up to $30 million a year for HIP.

The government approved these allocations. Transitional funding agreements have been signed with 12 racetracks - eight for two years and four for one year. (Three tracks are racing in 2013 without transition funding assistance.) In all, 867 race dates are planned for 2013-14 at 15 tracks.

New Instructions to Panel

On May 1, 2013, the Minister of Agriculture and Food, the Honourable Kathleen Wynne, requested the panel to move beyond the model outlined in its Final Report to produce a concrete plan to assist the industry in assuming responsibility for its future. The Minister explicitly stated that the plan should quantify the amount of government investment required into the future of horse racing. She also directed the panel to take a lead role in facilitating a new integrated relationship between the horse racing industry and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG).

The Minister asked the panel to prepare a draft plan to be made public prior to consultations with the industry and government ministries, and to submit a final plan to allow for implementation on April 1, 2014.

This is the draft Ontario Horse Racing Plan. The panel will consult widely to refine its analysis and recommendations and deliver a final plan by October.

  1. Key Objectives: Optimize and Grow

As the panel has commented in earlier reports, Ontario's horse racing industry is worth saving. It has a strong economic impact, generating jobs, spinoffs and tax revenues. It is a valuable social and cultural asset, woven into the fabric of Ontario life for generations and appealing to many communities in today's diverse society. Moreover, it has the potential to become a key component of Ontario's gaming strategy, since it offers a modern infrastructure of facilities and systems with an established customer base. Optimizing the existing racetrack infrastructure can and should be an important element in Ontario's plans to modernize gaming.

The goal of this plan is to construct a solid foundation for a renewed and revitalized horse racing industry in Ontario. The panel believes firmly that the industry can build a bright future. But to do so, it must optimize and grow.

"Optimize" means getting the most value from the industry's assets, such as skilled personnel, quality horses, innovative technology and first-class racing and gaming facilities. In particular, the industry must make the most productive use of Ontario's racetrack infrastructure. This can be achieved by offering an attractive series of races year round. It is also necessary to focus investment on track facilities that demonstrate customer support while reducing investment in facilities with limited customer appeal.

"Growth" means smart, sustainable growth - not artificial expansion fuelled by revenue unrelated to the industry's core business, which is to provide a racing experience that is attractive to consumers. Sustainable growth involves expanding the fan base, increasing wagering, maximizing the export of Ontario races through simulcasts and other systems, and building the demand for Ontario horses.

Optimizing and growth are also the fundamentals at play in integrating horse racing into the Ontario gaming strategy under the OLG. Historically, as laws against gambling were relaxed, horse racing was Ontario's original legal gaming product. While it now has much competition, horse racing can help to grow the overall provincial return from gaming. The key will be to optimize the use of existing infrastructure by adding new gaming products at racetracks. The industry can also contribute to gaming revenues through gaming products linked to racing.

From Bigger to Better

Ontario horse racing has a proud record of excellence, from the Queen's Plate - North America's oldest continuous running thoroughbred race - to stellar horses like Northern Dancer and Thinking Out Loud. Recently, however, the industry has lost its way. The focus has shifted to producing more, not better, races and racehorses.

The reason is SARP. From 1998 until March 31, 2013, SARP provided a substantial flow of revenue to the industry based on activity at slot machines. The way SARP was designed created an incentive to produce a quantity of racing to match the purse money available from slots revenue. There was, however, little or no incentive to offer racing of the quality expected by horseplayers.

In the short term, this arrangement appeared to be successful. Large purse pools at tracks with enviable slots revenue sparked enormous growth in the industry. But the industry drifted away from its core constituents - the horseplayers and fans.

In the SARP era it simply did not matter if races drew the interest of horseplayers or if the stands at tracks were empty. Breeders could produce horses of limited value outside Ontario, content in the knowledge that the slots revenue had created a large domestic market for average horses. In short, SARP encouraged mediocrity.

That is not to say that Ontario breeders, owners and trainers have not continued to produce and race some excellent horses with international appeal. In every sector of the industry a component of excellence can still be found.

But much of the industry is built on racing that is not attractive to the consumer. This has to change.

It is important to understand that, with modern technology, Ontario racing now operates in an international market. Cross-border simulcasts and wagering put the Ontario industry in competition with the racing product of other jurisdictions for the horseplayer's dollar.

One of the main directions in the panel's Final Report was to re-size and re-focus the industry. Producing the quality and quantity of horses and racing that can draw an international audience is essential for the industry's survival in modern times. To further this end, the panel recommended tying the revenue for purses to the commission available from wagering by horseplayers. This has been done for the 2013 racing season.

The panel continues to believe it is crucial to base the size of the industry on the demand for Ontario racing. In fact, to optimize the industry's operation, the panel has concluded that it is necessary to go beyond its initial proposals linking purse revenue with wagering commissions. The panel now recommends a new funding model that will tie public investment in the industry to the level of commissions from wagering. The panel's plan will link government funding with the consumer response.

Nurturing Sustainable Growth

While the panel believes the industry has much potential to grow domestically and internationally, significant change and assistance are required to realize this opportunity. The panel's new funding model, which will be explained in the next section, is part of the answer. Other fundamental reforms are also imperative.

Uniting a Fractious Industry

The industry has long been characterized by competition among stakeholders for a share of revenues. These different constituencies centre around the three types of racehorse - thoroughbred, standardbred and quarter horse - with tracks, breeders, owners, trainers and jockeys or drivers for each type.

The substantial funds provided by SARP allowed for some flow of revenue to all of these groups. The industry's existing governance reflects this arrangement and is premised on stakeholder representation and consent. As the panel observed in the Interim Report, the industry is fractious and has proven capable of only limited collaboration for the common good.

Moreover, horseplayers and fans are missing from this mix. While this was not a serious concern in the SARP era, it is a fatal flaw for an industry that must focus on consumer demand.

Centralized management is critical to optimizing and then growing Ontario racing. The industry's current governance is not able to direct activity and investment to the areas of the industry with the highest potential for growth and return. Strong leadership is needed to target investment to, and direct the production of, racing in the most attractive and marketable form. Creating a basis for growth will also require withdrawal from aspects of the industry that are not commercially viable.

In short, the horse racing industry requires determined leadership with the power to make and execute the decisions necessary to refocus the industry on the consumer. In the panel's opinion, the industry, as currently organized, is not capable of generating this leadership. A new governance structure is proposed later in this plan.

The industry's future depends on attracting and retaining a robust horseplayer base. Collaborative marketing and branding of the Ontario racing product in the global wagering market should be a priority. Presenting Ontario racing as a single brand will strengthen its market presence and particularly support the export of Ontario racing as a package. Common branding requires an investment in brand building, a focus on target consumers and an aggressive promotional effort. All this also calls for strong leadership and will be addressed by the new governance model.

Changes in Industry Practices

Two other changes in current practices are advisable to help horse racing function as a more united industry: purse pooling and the consolidation of Home Market Areas.

In the SARP era purses largely depended on the slots revenue generated at individual tracks. Some of the pari-mutuel commissions also went into purses at each track, accounting for about half of thoroughbred purses, but only about a fifth of standardbred purses. The panel's plan calls for the pooling of revenues available for purses and a distribution of purses based on the conditions of a particular race. The effect of this form of purse pooling is to offer the same purse for races of comparable quality, helping to meet the needs of the industry and the demands of the market.

Purse pooling allows for even and predictable purses for similar races. For example, a signature level standardbred race would offer the same level of purse regardless of the track venue or season. Pooling purses within quarter horse, standardbred and thoroughbred racing, respectively, eliminates the competition between tracks and focuses the industry on developing and maintaining customer support.

Apart from Ajax Downs, each Ontario racetrack has a Home Market Area (HMA) assigned under its racing licence from the Ontario Racing Commission, and receives a commission on all types of wagering in its area (both on and off the track). Hence the revenue from wagering is divided, in part, based on the HMA boundaries of the tracks. The panel proposes that the individual HMAs be consolidated into one, with the entire province considered a single market area and revenues distributed to support attractive, marketable racing events rather than confined within arbitrary borders.

Working with the OLG

The panel believes that considerable revenue is lost to the industry and the provincial government through the current disconnect between the horse racing industry and gaming under the OLG. This present "silo approach" does not encourage and in some instances prevents the optimal use of expertise and assets for the good of all.

As has been demonstrated by SARP, racetracks provide a community-friendly venue for gaming. In addition to the physical track infrastructure, racing also provides a virtual and physical off- track network. It makes sense to maximize the revenue from gaming at these facilities, for example, by enhancing the existing gaming activities or linking the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area racetracks into a network of gaming centres.

Optimizing gaming within the existing racetrack infrastructure fits with the goals and objectives of the OLG modernization strategy. Doing this would reduce the need for extensive new infrastructure and hence could deliver a much faster return.

The OLG has a wide network of retail outlets, a sophisticated marketing department and deep understanding of the business of gaming. This expertise should be brought to the forefront in repositioning horse racing, enticing new horseplayers and enhancing the gaming experience on- and off-track.

In other jurisdictions, various racing-themed gaming products - such as race-based lotteries and historical horse races (where players bet on the outcome of unidentified past races through an electronic terminal) - help support live racing and contribute to public revenues. Ontario should introduce these kinds of racing-themed gaming products under the auspices of the OLG within the framework of relevant legislation.

As noted in the panel's October report, the Senate of Canada is considering a bill that would permit single-event sports wagering under a provincially regulated system. The panel believes that this potential new offering in the Ontario gaming product mix would be a natural fit with some components of the racing infrastructure, such as the off-track betting network.

  1. New Ontario Horse Racing Plan - the Details

In the Interim Report, the panel sketched a vision for a sustainable horse racing industry. The vision has three dimensions:

  • a racing product that appeals to horse players - which means state-of-the-art tracks, ample race dates, full cards, competitive fields and an attractive pari-mutuel wagering pool
  • an Ontario-based breeding industry - for thoroughbreds, standardbreds and quarter horses - including world-class horse improvement programs needed to preserve a high-value horse racing industry
  • an Ontario-based racehorse training network - serving resident Ontario horses, not just horses shipped in for a short season and then shipped out.

To realize this vision, the panel believes it is critical to reach the following goals:

  • optimize the industry's size and activity by aligning investment with market demand
  • grow the industry through collaborative marketing and branding, and development of a racing product that attracts and retains customers
  • strengthen and promote Ontario live racing
  • encourage the breeding of superior Ontario horses
  • build the industry's capacity for self-management
  • maximize provincial gaming revenue by making the most of racetrack facilities and the OLG retail network and tapping the expertise of both.

The panel believes that the measures outlined below meet the test of good public policy and will foster best-in-class racing, engage racing fans and horseplayers, produce an internationally competitive product, nurture jobs in horse breeding and training, and promote a sustainable industry. To achieve these results, the plan calls for a strategic redesign of the way the industry is funded, governed and structured.

A New Funding Model

In the October report, the panel determined that the right size for the racing industry could best be reached by deriving all purse money from the industry commission on wagering. To make this benchmark work in 2013, the panel advised the government to provide tracks with transition funding to make up for the loss of operating revenue that previously came from the industry share of wagering.

While this model preserved live racing this year, it is not a long-term or even medium-term fix. Without sharing directly in pari-mutuel commissions, tracks have no incentive to increase the volume of wagering by making their product more attractive. To firmly connect all parties in the racing industry with the horseplayer and fan, the panel has concluded that, going forward, all public funding should be based on the commission from wagering.

The new funding model addresses two key questions:

  • how to determine the amount of government funding that will be required to sustain the industry in the future, and
  • how to share this public investment among the partners in the industry.
Amount of Public Investment Needed

In 2013-14, the public contribution to racing from transition payments and the pari-mutuel tax reduction2 is approximately $110 million. This is the amount the panel calculated was needed to maintain a viable industry by keeping a competitive racing product in the marketplace. During the year, industry commissions from pari-mutuel wagering are also expected to total about $110 million. Since these amounts are in balance, the panel believes it would be reasonable and practical to benchmark the future public contribution to horse racing on a matching-dollar basis with commissions earned.

Under this formula, if the pari-mutuel commission remains the same in future years, the public investment will too. On the other hand, if the commission declines, so will the public investment. Conversely, government funding would increase with an increase in the pari-mutuel commission. In short, the industry as a whole will be able to maximize government funding by maximizing pari-mutuel wagering. The government investment will reinforce rather than undermine the choices of the marketplace.

Since the proceeds from the pari-mutuel tax reduction would be included in the matching funds, this model requires renegotiation of the existing memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the industry. The tax reduction savings would be redirected to a new provincial racing governance body to be known as Ontario Live Racing (OLR).

One of the principles the panel has adopted to guide public investment in the industry is a positive return to the taxpayer. This means that any public funding should generate at least an equivalent amount of provincial tax revenue through the industry's direct and indirect economic activity. The metrics for precisely measuring the industry's tax contribution have not been established. Still, the panel is confident that the funding recommended in the October report - $180 million over three years and a continuation of the pari-mutuel tax reduction - reflects a reasonable estimate of tax revenues from the industry. Since a growing industry will yield more tax revenue, the net cost to government should remain stable or even decrease even if the public investment increases in line with growth in pari-mutuel commissions.

Distributing Public Funds to the Industry

As noted, the panel proposes to match overall public funding to horse racing with the industry commission on pari-mutuel wagering. In determining how to allot this public investment within the industry, the panel considered some current realities about Ontario wagering. First, wagering in the province is based largely on imported product: races in other jurisdictions account for almost two thirds of wagering in Ontario. Wagering is also weighted heavily in favour of thoroughbred racing, while in standardbred racing, the highest of the three divisions (premier) attracts the most betting, while the lowest (grassroots) attracts much less. As well, Ontario tracks export their live-racing signals to other markets, netting about $20 million a year from wagering outside the province.

A major aim of this plan is to promote and strengthen live racing in Ontario - races actually run in this province and not transmitted from elsewhere. Live races generate more economic benefits in terms of jobs on the track, on the farm and in spinoff industries than do simulcasts of races in other jurisdictions. In particular, they build a market for superior Ontario-bred horses.

It is in the public interest for the government to invest in Ontario racing products, not foreign ones. In distributing matching funds to the industry, the panel therefore proposes to use a formula closely aligned with live-racing commissions and exports and the level of racing offered.

Matching fund grants would be allocated within each breed sector based on commissions from wagering on Ontario live racing3 and on net export earnings. Under this model, the funds provided would be a multiple of the actual commissions, creating a strong incentive for the industry to grow the fan base, attract horseplayers and expand wagering on live racing in Ontario. Within standardbred racing, a special formula would be needed for grassroots racing, as this generates relatively little wagering but is an important component of the industry.

For each track, the level of public funding will be tied to consumer demand for the Ontario racing product. The government will invest in success as defined by the marketplace. It will not subsidize failure as SARP did by supporting racing that does not attract customers.

Industry Revenues to Be Consolidated

Public funds for the racing industry in 2013 are flowing through two streams: the pari-mutuel tax reduction (approximately $50 million) under the MOU with the industry, and transition funds (approximately $60 million) through transfer payment agreements.4 These funds have come either as foregone government revenue (tax reduction) or a direct payment from the Ontario treasury (transfer payments).

A more permanent and more transparent payment structure is desirable. Designing such a structure creates an opportunity to further a more integrated relationship between horse racing and the OLG.

In the panel's view, non-track betting (including wagering at off-track betting sites, tele-wagering and online wagering 5) is essentially a gaming activity. The panel therefore recommends that all non-track wagering should be administered by OLR and willing racetracks with input and-, where appropriate, direction from OLG. OLR would receive the net revenue (after operator profit) from non-track wagering.

In this arrangement the gaming expertise of the OLG would be combined with the racing expertise of the industry, while respecting federal and provincial gaming legislation. An enhanced collaboration would be able to create the best non-track customer interface and increase the export of Ontario racing. It would also provide the groundwork for introducing new racing-themed gaming products, such as historical horse races or race-based lotteries. The OLG's role would be to assist in coordinating the non-track wagering offering - including contractual arrangements with service providers and operation of off-track betting sites - as well as the delivery of new products.

The panel believes public matching funds should be generated from gaming activities. Under this approach, the panel expects the OLG to come out ahead. If racing-related revenues exceed funds flowing to the industry, the OLG would be in a position to increase returns to the treasury. Moreover, the OLG would have an incentive to grow non-track betting and develop new racing-themed products, thereby increasing the horse racing fan base and generating more revenue for both the industry and taxpayers.

The panel is confident that integration will contribute to provincial revenues, creating a stable source of public funding for horse racing. The ongoing government matching funds to the industry will come from the fruits of an integrated relationship between horse racing and the OLG.

In addition to the matching funds and the non-track wagering revenues, the panel proposes to direct all industry commissions from on-track wagering to OLR. Moreover, as mentioned above, OLR would take charge of the savings from the pari-mutuel tax reduction.

OLR would consolidate all industry revenues - including all public funds and all pari-mutuel commissions - and then distribute them to the three breeds based on their share of wagering on live Ontario races. This model would give the industry a laser-like focus on the live-racing customer. In particular, commissions from wagering on foreign product would be diverted to support for Ontario live racing.

The panel recognizes the need for cash flow management for purse accounts and track operations. Creating an efficient method for distributing funds within the industry may include retention of on-track and other revenues by a track up to an agreed threshold.

The panel further notes that transfer payment agreements with several tracks have been signed for 2014. These agreements must be honoured except as amended by mutual consent.

A New Governance Model

As suggested above, horse racing in Ontario is not a monolith. The industry divides into three distinct groups based on breed: quarter horse, standardbred and thoroughbred. Within these three groups there are further divisions between tracks, breeders, horse owners, trainers and jockeys or drivers - and between the various levels of racing. What is deemed good for one group is not always, or even often, good for all.

Beyond the competition for resources, the three breeds have different histories, cultures and practices. For example, thoroughbred horses are resident on track while standardbreds and quarter horses ship in for racing. This difference implies a much higher level of track costs for thoroughbreds.

Another example: artificial insemination can be used in standardbred and quarter horse breeding, permitting the shipment of semen, while the thoroughbred industry restricts breeding to live cover. This difference in allowable technology profoundly influences the nature of the breeding industry and the required supports.

Horseplayers also divide by breed. There is very little overlap between thoroughbred, standardbred and quarter horse wagerers.

All in all, it is unrealistic to assume that treating the three breeds in a similar fashion will result in good outcomes. Each breed deserves and requires its own management structure. At the same time, however, the industry as a whole has functional areas that cut across all breeds and require industry-wide management.

The panel understands that the government is interested in permitting the horse racing industry to govern itself, as a number of industries now do. However, in the panel's opinion the industry lacks the capacity and structure to self-manage effectively at this time. Therefore, the panel proposes a governance model that will reflect the current state of the industry and provide an opportunity for capacity-building with the ultimate goal of self-governance.


The government is proceeding with an independent review of the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) to determine the appropriate regulatory role for that organization. Its current regulatory functions include approving the racing calendar, officiating at all horse races, licensing of tracks and of individuals directly involved in racing, and adjudicating appeals6. The ORC also performs industry management and development roles, which the panel proposes to move to a new industry governance structure, as discussed below.

It has often been observed that a conflict occurs where a regulator participates in managing the regulated industry. The panel agrees and is determined to avoid this. The new industry structure could be created as an arm of the ORC, but it would have to be firewalled from the ORC's regulatory function.

OLR should report annually to the public through a report submitted to the government.

Reformed Racing Governance

The ORC's non-regulatory roles to be transferred to the new structure include creation of a racing calendar - with race dates and conditions - and administration of the Horse Improvement Program (HIP) and the Quarter Horse Racing Industry Development Program (QHRIDP).

The linchpin of the new model would be a central industry-wide umbrella organization, Ontario Live Racing (OLR). There would also be three breed-based divisions:

  • Standardbred Live
  • Thoroughbred Live
  • Quarter Horse Live.

Since OLR would have responsibility for substantial public funds, it would be appropriate for the government to appoint its leadership. A board of directors appointed by the government would lead OLR, with advice and input from industry experts, particularly from the horseplayer community.

The organization would coordinate and review the racing calendar proposed by the divisions, ensure a fair process for developing the calendar and submit the calendar for regulatory approval. OLR would also determine the budget and priorities for HIP and QHRIDP and undertake centralized marketing and branding of the Ontario racing product. (This crucial marketing function is discussed more fully later in this plan.)

In addition, as outlined above, OLR would play a pivotal financial role. It would consolidate all public investment (including the pari-mutuel tax reduction and the matching funds) plus all net commissions from all types of wagering. It would then flow funds to the three breed-based divisions based on their share of wagering on live Ontario racing.

The three divisions would be led by representatives of tracks, horse breeders and horsepersons. These organizations would be responsible for conducting live racing and encouraging fan participation within their respective spheres. They would develop the racing calendar and work with the respective tracks and horsepersons to arrange a split of purses and track operating costs, as well local marketing initiatives. The results of this planning would be provided to OLR so signal output and overall race scheduling could be coordinated. The divisions would also support the breeding of superior Ontario horses through operation of the horse improvement programs for their designated breed.

Under the new model, both purses and track operating costs would be covered by the allocation from OLR. This contrasts with the current transitional arrangements in which all industry pari-mutuel commissions are devoted to purses, and track costs are offset by government grants.

Standardbred Live would include the standardbred track alliance mentioned in the panel's October report. While the track alliance model assumed working groups of breeders and horsepersons, the panel suggests formalizing this relationship.

Currently, standardbred horsepersons in Ontario are represented by four organizations. The panel urges consolidation into one group for all Ontario. This should be accomplished by a vote of all licensed horsepersons who are currently a member of one or more of the associations.

Standardbred breeders now participate in a working group with the ORC. This group should move over to Standardbred Live. The panel suggests making the existing breed governing body, Standardbred Canada, the formal breeders' partner in Standardbred Live.

The thoroughbred sector has fewer tracks and racing divisions than the more complex standardbred industry. With two operational tracks, one horsepersons group and one breed registry, a decision-making nucleus already exists. The new governance body, Thoroughbred Live, should be relatively easy to design.

Similarly, in the quarter horse division of OLR, a track alliance would be unnecessary, and horseperson and breeder representation could be achieved through existing organizations.

Refocusing HIP

The government has guaranteed up to $30 million in funding for HIP for 2013-14 and also for 2014-15. One of the first orders of business for OLR should be to decide how to deploy these funds.

The panel recognizes that many jurisdictions support purses for races that are restricted to local horses. In Ontario HIP has done this through the Ontario Sires Stakes and a similar program for thoroughbreds. However, the panel observes that, while restricted races have a role, they do not truly promote excellence. It might be worthwhile to consider new breeder incentives that would focus on successful results in unrestricted competition. For example, incentive awards could be presented to breeders of Ontario horses that perform well in major international races.

In any event, the panel believes that HIP should be redesigned with an emphasis on developing quality and rewarding excellence. HIP affects breeders, owners and other horsepersons and should be remodeled in consultation with all of these stakeholders.

QHRIDP requires a similar redesign, again in consultation with stakeholders.

Integrated Gaming Strategy

The OLG is responsible for most gaming in the province - specifically lotteries, bingo, slots and casinos. The Minister has asked the panel to work with the OLG on integrating horse racing into the province's gaming strategy.

In its October, 2012 report the panel stated the OLG should not subsidize the horse racing industry but neither should the horse racing industry subsidize the OLG. Building on this theme, the panel now believes that by aligning economic interests, the OLG and the horse racing industry can work collaboratively to reduce costs and increase revenues. A more integrated relationship will increase revenue to the province.

As a step toward optimizing the gaming sector, the panel proposes to enhance all non-track wagering through mutually beneficial agreements between the OLR, willing tracks and the OLG-,. This arrangement should create a more competitive environment for non-track wagering, hasten the introduction of new wagering products by the OLG and encourage tracks to focus on marketing live racing to fans and horseplayers. In fact, the OLG retail networks could potentially be used to expand wagering on horse races, if the changes to the Home Market Area provisions proposed earlier in this plan are made. The panel has also identified opportunities for the OLG to offer a race-based lottery product or present historical horse races, in collaboration with the industry, as noted previously.

The panel reiterates what is one of the most important aspects of integration: the use of racetracks as gaming centres. Ontario communities support enhanced gaming opportunities at tracks, and new gaming products can be added to existing facilities quickly and at relatively low capital cost. The panel believes that tapping the potential of racetracks as gaming centres should be a top priority in the integration of horse racing into the provincial gaming strategy.

Restructuring the Horse Racing Industry

The racing industry must be restructured for success. This need is most acute in the standardbred sector.

Standardbred Challenges

Standardbred racing consumes the majority of the racing calendar in Ontario. It was the largest beneficiary of SARP and consequently suffered most from the termination of the program.

Standardbred racing is comprised of three divisions:

  • Premium - The best horses running for relatively large purses. This level of racing attracts the most interest from horseplayers.
  • Signature - Second tier horses that may occasionally run in premium races. This level of racing has an inconsistent following among horseplayers.
  • Grassroots - Racing for very young and unproven horses or horses that are not competitive in premium or signature races. This level of racing attracts relatively little wagering.

Under SARP all three levels of standardbred racing prospered regardless of wagering levels. In an industry more focused on the consumer, this cannot continue.

Growth in wagering will come from a condensed product offering (fewer race days more strategically located) featuring competitive races. To grow the standardbred industry in Ontario, a focus must be placed on the products most attractive to horseplayers: premium and signature racing.

Racing of this kind currently takes place at Woodbine and Mohawk (the Woodbine Entertainment Group tracks), Flamboro and Georgian (the Great Canadian Gaming tracks), Western Fair, Grand River and Ottawa.

This plan proposes to incorporate all Ontario premium and signature standardbred racing into a world-class circuit. The panel has been advised that such a circuit must conduct races within a practical shipping limit to be commercially viable for the bulk of the industry. With this in mind, the panel proposes hosting the Ontario standardbred racing circuit at five tracks: Mohawk, Flamboro, Georgian, Western Fair and Grand River. These tracks lie within a practical shipping region and present a variety of track conditions suitable for a range of horses.

To support such a racing circuit, it will be essential to pool purses and align racing schedules into a coherent, coordinated program that consistently offers competitive racing and captures the consumer's imagination. This would be a task for Standardbred Live.

Left off this list is a fine track within the area, Woodbine. Woodbine is the preeminent racetrack in Canada and hosts standardbred racing in the winter season. However, the panel has sympathy for those in the standardbred industry who prefer Mohawk as the anchor for the circuit. Many feel Mohawk creates a more exciting venue for standardbred live-racing fans. Unlike the Woodbine standardbred track, which lies inside two other tracks, the Mohawk track is directly in front of the grandstand and ideal for trackside viewing. Horsepersons also report that Mohawk's location improves the logistics for most of the industry. The panel anticipates much debate on the merits of this proposal during the consultation period.

Rideau Carleton in Ottawa currently offers a combination of signature and grassroots racing with support from horseplayers through a network of off-track wagering facilities. In many ways this represents an enviable local market. However, the track's location makes participation in an Ontario racing circuit commercially unfeasible. The track does not currently receive transition payments from the government for its operations.

The panel proposes to exempt Rideau Carleton from participation in the consolidation of commissions and permit it to continue to use its on-track wagering proceeds. In addition, the panel would allow Rideau Carleton to retain profits from operating non-track wagering. Export of races from Rideau Carleton as part of an Ontario-based racing package would be subject to agreement with Standardbred Live and OLR.

Grassroots and fair racing is an important, rural-based component of the standardbred racing industry. This segment does not contribute materially to the export of Ontario racing. On-track wagering, while low compared to other levels of racing, can be locally significant. The panel proposes limited participation in funding for grassroots tracks based on wagering on live races and urges flexibility in scheduling these races to meet local needs.

Thoroughbred Challenges

Thoroughbred racing currently takes place at two tracks, Woodbine and Fort Erie. This sector was less reliant on SARP funding than other players in the racing industry. Therefore thoroughbred racing faces a less daunting task in engaging racing fans and restructuring its operations.

This does not, however, mean that thoroughbred racing is without challenges. In particular, the second tier track, Fort Erie, requires considerable public support to conduct races and has struggled to maintain an adequate supply of competitive horses.

Under the new governance model the business case for track funding will be determined by Thoroughbred Live and OLR. There will be a competitive process designed to put the right racing product at the right, best-value venue.

Support for signature level thoroughbred racing has been difficult for many years. While the product has good market acceptance, the production cost is high. As the industry is currently configured, two operational thoroughbred tracks require a duplication of on-site stabling. Mitigating these costs and retaining customers will be primary tasks for Thoroughbred Live. Cost-reduction strategies could include cost recovery of stabling and ship-in racing options.

Quarter Horse Challenges

Though the quarter horse industry has existed in Ontario for decades, it is often considered a cottage industry within the racing community because of its limited scale. The size of the industry and the distance from other North American tracks make a racing circuit impractical. Due to these factors it is also a challenge to arrange large competitive fields and frequent race dates. However, the races are enthusiastically supported by owners and horsepersons.

Quarter horse racing at Ajax Downs and Fort Erie has proven fan appeal and strong community ties and attracts a younger demographic than other racing products. The level of wagering on these races is an issue. To provide a robust future for the quarter horse industry, the live-racing wager must continue to grow. To this end, the industry is exploring innovative ways to appeal to horseplayers and fans.

Quarter Horse Live will face the toughest wager improvement challenge of the three breeds. It will benefit from an existing, cooperative relationship between the track, breeder and horseperson elements of the industry.

A Focus on Marketing and Promotion

As currently organized, the industry is unable to present the Ontario racing product to fans and horseplayers under a common brand. While some excellent local efforts have made inroads in fan appreciation, these activities lack coordination and funding.

Several tracks host successful community outreach days, which represent valuable opportunities to expose more people to the excitement of live racing. However, new fans do not immediately contribute much to the wagering pool, and the financial benefit of attracting new fans is a long-term proposition. This situation will be partially addressed by the panel's proposed revenue distribution model that puts a premium on wagering on live racing. Common fan education tools and other marketing materials on a range of platforms would assist horsepersons and tracks to enhance the new fan experience.

OLR would be charged with creating a common brand for Ontario racing, executing a marketing plan for Ontario racing and assisting the breed divisions with the design and execution of local marketing and fan education initiatives. Included in the marketing plan would be a robust earned media plan, including targeted local media, a common social media approach and support for a variety of platforms.

The industry currently underutilizes the promotional value of its higher-profile events. The panel has examined endorsement and promotional campaigns in other jurisdictions and believes opportunities exist for revenue generation and product exposure. OLR would also be charged with developing promotional agreements with targeted industries.

Overall, the industry would benefit from a deeper understanding of its primary customer, the horseplayer. While some work has been done in this area, the expertise of the OLG in understanding the behaviour of the gaming consumer will be invaluable. The panel sees an opportunity for the racing industry and the OLG to partner in a marketing effort to target and reach consumers who may be attracted to the experience of live racing and enhanced gaming products.

Internal Communications

An element of any marketing plan is internal communications. The best ambassadors for the sport of racing are the horsepersons and breeders who know and understand it. Therefore it is vital to keep everyone in the industry informed of the marketing strategies, fan outreach opportunities and future plans for live racing in Ontario. To this end, the panel recommends directing a fixed amount of funding from the 2013-14 transfer payment budget to support a communications plan within the industry. This fund should be established immediately to provide a framework for communications during the consultation period for this plan and the development of the 2014 racing program.

Promoting Equine Welfare

In its two previous reports, the panel underlined the important issue of equine welfare. The well-being of the equine athlete - the horse - continues to be a principal concern.

Ensuring fair and honest competition is fundamental to the credibility and integrity of horse racing. This oversight is the purview of the regulator.

However, fairness is just the beginning of the equine industry's responsibility to respect community ethical norms. The racehorse industry must treat equine athletes with the care and kindness the public reasonably expects. These standards include not exposing the equine athlete to undue risk of disabling injury, and ensuring that the equine athlete is free of pain. Given that even successful racehorses often finish their racing careers by age five, the public also has a reasonable expectation of a second career for retired equine athletes.

By their nature, all competitive sports push the limits of performance. Racing should be a test of athletic ability, conditioning and heart. The public will not support an industry that is unwilling or unable to prevent substandard animal care, limit injury and provide a full life expectancy.

The panel believes everyone connected to the racehorse industry has a responsibility to ensure that public expectations for the care of horses are met on and off the track. Standards of care must go beyond regulatory requirements and be enforced through OLR and the breed divisions.

As the panel has noted previously, the horseplayer is absent from the decision-making bodies of the industry as currently construed. Also absent from the governance structure is representation of the public concern for the ethical treatment of the equine athlete. The panel therefore proposes that a sport ethicist be included in the advisory capacity for OLR.

Life cycle planning for race horses is the responsibility of owners and breeders. The panel's October report recommended government funding for foundational work on the development of life cycle plans through Equine Guelph. The panel understands that this effort is only the first step to proper care for retired racehorses. The three divisions of OLR would be responsible for developing a robust post-racing path for all horses in their breeds.

Public Interest Principles

As the panel has observed in previous reports, any government investment in horse racing should be based on clear public interest principles:

  • accountability
  • transparency
  • renewed focus on the consumer
  • positive return to taxpayers.

This plan so far has centred mainly on a renewed consumer focus. The other three principles remain critical, and it will be up to OLR to deliver on them.

SARP funds were paid without any reference to performance - or any requirement to disclose results. This mistake must not be repeated.

OLR would be responsible for developing clear objectives and benchmarks to show that the government funding to the industry is in the public interest. In particular, OLR will design performance metrics to demonstrate that the government investment is being recouped through tax revenue. OLR would also report results on a regular basis, so that the public knows who is receiving public money and what is being done with it. Accountability and transparency will be the hallmarks of the new partnership between government and Ontario's horse racing industry.

  1. Conclusion: Driving Continuous Improvement

To recap the highlights of this plan, the panel recommends the following actions to optimize and grow Ontario horse racing:

  • Match overall public funding to horse racing on a dollar-for-dollar basis with the industry commission on pari-mutuel wagering of all types (about 20 per cent of gross wagering, less deductions).
  • Distribute public funding among tracks based on their share of commissions on wagering on Ontario live racing.
  • Refocus the Horse Improvement Program (HIP) on developing quality and rewarding excellence.
  • Create an industry-wide governance organization, to be known as Ontario Live Racing (OLR), to:
    • Take on the current non-regulatory roles of the ORC, such as coordination of a racing calendar and direction of horse improvement programs
    • Coordinate common marketing and branding of Ontario horse racing
    • Consolidate all industry revenues and flow funds to three breed divisions, based on their share of wagering on live Ontario racing
    • Develop metrics to measure the industry's performance in meeting public interest objectives, including a positive return to taxpayers on the government investment in the industry.
  • Firewall the regulatory functions of the Ontario Racing Commission from OLR.
  • Establish a separate management structure or division for each of the three breeds - Thoroughbred Live, Standardbred Live and Quarter Horse Live - with responsibility for:
    • Conducting live racing
    • Expanding wagering and promoting fan participation
    • Supporting the breeding of superior Ontario horses through the operation of horse improvement programs
    • Developing the racing calendar
    • Working with the respective tracks and horsepersons to arrange a split of purses and track operating costs.
  • Integrate horse racing with Ontario's gaming strategy under the OLG by:
    • Creating mutually beneficial agreements between OLG, OLR and racetracks to manage non-track wagering (including off-track betting sites, telewagering and online wagering)
    • Charging the OLG to explore new horse racing-themed gaming products to earn new revenue for the industry and the government
    • Maximizing government revenue from gaming by making the most of racetracks' network of facilities and systems - for example, by transforming tracks into gaming centres.
  • Restructure the standardbred sector into a world-class Ontario racing circuit operating at five tracks within a practical shipping area.
  • Promote equine welfare by enforcing standards of care and developing life cycle plans for all racehorses.

Like any other industry, the horse racing industry exists to create satisfied customers. This plan makes sure that the flow of money in the industry reflects rather than distorts this reality. By matching public investment in the industry with pari-mutuel commissions - the key gauge of customer satisfaction - this plan will drive the industry to continuously improve the racing experience for fans and horseplayers.

Under this plan, a track's return on live racing will increase substantially with all funding - from both government investment and pari-mutuel commission revenues - calculated as a multiple of commissions on live Ontario races. The industry will have a strong incentive to develop live racing, rather than rely heavily on imported simulcasts. Growth of live racing will maximize the industry's economic impact by creating more jobs and more business in the equine sector and related industries. A focus on live racing will also encourage the industry to produce high-quality horses that win fans and generate wagering.

The purpose of this plan is to build a solid foundation for a renewed and revitalized Ontario horse racing industry. To do this, it aligns the economic interests of all industry partners toward the common goal of maximizing the fan base and wagering - now the key to the industry's success.

The panel looks forward to a constructive dialogue with stakeholders and the public on how Ontario horse racing can take responsibility for its own future.


1 Wagering on horse races is conducted through a pari-mutuel system, under which all amounts bet are combined in a single pool. After deductions for purses, track operating expenses and taxes, the balance of the pool - nearly 80 per cent - is shared among the winning bettors. The payoff odds depend on the number of winners sharing the pool.

2 In the mid-'90s, the Ontario government sharply reduced the tax on pari-mutuel gambling in the province. The reduction is equivalent to 6.9 per cent of gross Ontario wagering. The tax reduction is subject to a memorandum of understanding between the ORC, the government and the industry. The industry no longer remits the funds to the government, but has agreed to spend the savings on Horse Improvement Programs and various consumer benefits and other initiatives.

3 Wagering on Ontario live racing includes: betting on races run at the track where the bet is placed, inter-track wagering at one track on races at other Ontario tracks, and non-track betting - including off-track sites, tele-wagering and online wagering - on Ontario races. The panel is examining ways to measure the various aspects of Ontario live racing. It is often difficult, however, to disentangle wagering data on Ontario product from that on foreign product. To simplify the method for allocating funds, the panel is considering the use of just one measure: wagering at the track where the bet is placed. It appears this can be relatively easily determined and could serve as an accurate indicator of overall wagering on Ontario product. The panel will be analyzing data and considering various data collection options to determine if this is the best criterion to use.

4 Racetracks with slot facilities are also receiving commercial rents from the OLG. The panel assumes these funds cover slots facility costs and do not subsidize racing.

5 Also known as advance deposit wagering (ADW).

6 Complementing the ORC's regulatory role, the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency regulates and supervises pari-mutuel betting on horse racing at tracks across Canada.



A few thoughts:
1Race standardbreds at Ajax Downs
2Close the slot parlours while live racing is going on
3Charge for parking for the slots - free if customer shows a horse wager receipt
4Change entrances so customers have to see the horses on their way to the slot machines
Edward Wilson

The weg circuit for harness woodbine/mohawk has raced year around for many years now, under the new plan where they talk about circuit racing and no harness at woodbine only at mohawk, does anyone know how months per year they intend to race at mohawk.

I'd like to know if there's going to be any "fair racing" in Ontario? Over the last few years we've lost all the fairs..Markham..Ancaster..Simcoe..Paris..Sutton
Is there a plan in place to bring back fair racing to us? It's where alot of the young horses get their first taste of racing...It's going to be new people out to the races & let them experience it first hand..It's going to bring families & young kids who one day might want to be a driver or trainer..We need some sort of plan going forward to kick start the fair circuit in Ontario once again...get some "grassroots" out to these fairs..put some money into these fairs & purse money for the horsemen who want to go out & spend a Sat/Sun afternoon bringing the sport back to the country fairs where it's been for so long...We need to start something here to being the fans..newcomers to the sport..Anyone have any ideas here?

In reply to by greeneyeddevils

No doubt Frank you are hitting on part of the problem the grassroots has been long forgotten and I believe this has a lot to do with the sorry state we are in today. Why in heavens name has the WFR only once raced during it's Fair season? The exposure lost over the years is for shame. Maybe it's our presentation as horsemen that is lacking? To be honest are we presentable to the public? We need new fans this is without a doubt but how can we attract new fans if we do not offer ourselves in a presentable fashion. Are we friendly enough? Would a sane rational decent person want to watch animals being beaten to the finish line? Maybe raceway management realises that we are not presentable and hence the lack of harness racing participation during maximum exposure time? I am a lifelong horseman and I certainly have no taste for the abuse I see when I am at the track. The whipping must go, it has to stop and I mean full stop. This would be a good first step. Nothing is more annoying than listening to someone blathering on about such and such a horse wouldn't have been any good if he hadn't been beaten with the whip. So what, maybe that horse shouldn't have raced period. Most horses will race to their full extent without the whip... so get rid of the ones that don't. If they don't want to race maybe they shouldn't be racing. This is about presenting a product that the average person would not object to. This is not about appeasing some archaic dinosaurs. Any driver that can't learn to drive without beating his mount should find another occupation. Oh, and what about racing horses on Lasix during 40+ humidity days? Let's get this straight we dehydrate the poor creature then ask it (or force it) to run it's guts out in insane weather conditions? This game needs a lot of cleaning up before it will ever be a shadow of it's past. Those days are over and maybe it's good that they are maybe it's time to put the animal first then maybe then harness racing will earn it's way back into the limelight. Anyone that wants to refute or defend the way harness horses have been treat best do so with caution as I've only barely touched on this subject. Horsemen need to quit defending an un-defendable position. Shoulder some of the blame I know I am certainly willing to and in fact I have changed my ways and I'd say much for the 'bettor'. This new breed of driver needs to learn to sit up and drive, enough of the loose horse hands behind your back style of driving. They need to learn to use their head and their hands they are much better tools than a whip and more user friendly. Forget the politicians doesn't matter if they are liberal, pc, ndp, they are all the same and not one of them has your back you need to look after business yourselves. Many things need to be changed I just believe this would be a good place to start.

In reply to by greeneyeddevils

Frank, I totally agree with you. "Fair racing" has died in Ontario, because racetrack owners do not care about racing -- they care more about the slots and the slot revenues. Fairs are the way to go for horse racing.

This gouvernment has forced everyone involved in the industry to take a CUT IN SALARY,but do you see anyone of them doing the same, NO.It,s time to go to court and fight for what was yours in the begining. Mr BURGESS IS SO RIGHT TO SAY THAT THE ONTARIO GOUV. RACING PLAN IS FALSE AND FULL OF MISLEADING INFORMATION.

First off I think that the panel over looked our current gov't as
the largest beneficiary from SARP,coming in at approx. 1.2 billion.
On June 17 of this year Premier Kathleen Wynne was quoted in saying
that there will be 15 race tracks across the province this season.
Interesting,Windsor is closed,Woodstock is clused,Hiawatha is not
operating,if you consider Mohawk/Woodbine as 1 as they rotate between
the 2 I count 11.
Now by the end of sept. clinton,dresden,georgian,hanover and kawartha
will be closed,sudbury and grand river will follow soon after,and then
what.London does not race year around and now flamboro does not either.
So come may 2014 and living in the sarnia,windsor and london area thousands
of people will be trying to get their horses in at mohawk or grand river.
There are 2 very fine 5/8 tracks in both sarnia and windsor,both border
cities,in fact windsor was rated the fastest 5/8 track in N.A
Hey Dave I agree,Greenwood was a great race track,we raced horses there
and during Grand Circuit week it was buzzing.I think it was a mistake
to close Greenwood.I believe we need that sort of excitement again,
meaning grand circuit racing.

Would those of you in the industry who are well respected,have a great financial stake in the game and who usually don't like to speak up or get involved please take this final opportunity and make your voices heard. Read this report and ask yourselves what other business would have a model of not making their product available to the widest possible customer base in hopes of growing sales and revenue? How in the opinion of this panel is limiting exposure to new customers giving it a chance to grow? Surely if this plan is implemented there will be less people than ever exposed to harness racing. My belief is that not only are you limiting potential gaming revenues but what about those people and I've seen them come to the track and get interested enough to invest in the product that is sponsor races or become horse owners. Tick tock

In reply to by dave gilders

david gilders SAID...
Would those of you in the industry who are well respected,have a great financial stake in the game and who usually don't like to speak up or get involved please take this final opportunity and make your voices heard.

Would those of you who David Gilders refers to who are even reading this site please speak out or have you just moved on to greener pastures? Where are the rest of the voices of the big players (owners, trainers, drivers) who have taken so much from this industry (standardbred and thoroughbred) while the SARP was in place? I may be mistaken but I think far too many of them, with only a few exceptions such as Jack Darling, have been markedly 'missing in action' on the battlefield. However, they are still on the tracks and cleaning up!

From a fan's perspective 7/8th's and 1 mile tracks aren't the best. From an owner/trainer's perspective there are certain disadvantages to racing on half-mile tracks, particularly leaving from the outside if you have a semi-uncompetitive horse. However, Yonkers Raceway is a great track to watch and wager on. If anything, 5/8th's mile tracks might be the best in terms of pleasing trainers, owners, drivers, and of course the fans. Let's not forget the fans/wagering public.
As for putting in too many stipulations for only Ontario racing, we need to be realistic and recognize that Ontario borders on New York state. Do you really want to ostracize the Ontario industry from the rest of North America. This whole "self-sustaining plan" only works if you aren'y co-dependent on other racing jurisdictions. Otherwise it comes off as unfair prejudice based on borders.
It's easy to jump on board with something you don't really agree with and just blindly ride the wave and hope for the best. In reality, I think it makes more sense to keep the SARP in place for a tentative 5-year deal, and try and transition in some new policies and observe what seems to be working and not working. It's a more fair approach to everyone involved. Remeber, people's livlihoods hang in the balance, and although some may not care, in the end you do reap what you sow. So how about sowing a fair plan that doesn't involve yanking the rug out from thousands of people's feet ?

Mr. Bechtel, i am sorry I am going to have to disagree. You may have had a drink of Koolaid but you didn't swallow.

You wrote an open letter to the Premier in which you stated that you moved 18 of your 21 broodmares to the USA. I should have moved mine like you did so you are clearly smarter than me. the HIP program is just enough to kill the industry. I am racing 3 Grassroots 2yr olds for purses of $12,857 Saturday at Georgian instead of $24,000 like last year. That ensures I won't buy a yearling this year because the cost is too great to race for that purse.

This panel was chosen for a reason and it had nothing to do with their party status. Snobelen even wrote a column in Feb 2012 stating SARP had to go. That's before he was selected to the committee. You can read his column here:…

SARP didnt have to go and certainly not that fast. It could have been modified but it was a political decision like the gas plants.

There is no doubt that they have an agenda and if I go in with an open mind, then my mind will be the only one that gets changed. They have their plan and they won't be altering it. The public meetings are like the NDP saying they listened to the public before they propped up the Liberals on the budget. Anyone believe that?

Georg Leber-ICR Racing

I was lucky enough to sit in front of the three members of the panel this week and listen to their plan as well as ask questions and came away feeling much better about the future of Ontario racing Maybe I drank the Koolaid but I recommend everybody in the industry to attend the upcoming meetings without the built in bias that these guys dont get it. These gentleman understand the business very well and may not share your beliefs on funding or size of the business going forward but I believe I may be part of a growing group of people who think that the industry needs to listen to these people because they might be members of the "home team".

Mr Yamakva I am not about to curcify your idea because a) I agree with a lot of what you are saying and b) at least you are making some sort of suggestions. Your overall point is well made. The industry cannot relay on slots money. I also have been saying this for many many years from a fans point of view as I have not owend horses for some time now. My only point about the slots being taken away is that although well with it's right to do so the government did so in an irresponsbile manner and perhaps should have phased it in and not put th industry in such a tough position.
I also agree with John Frgamum's point about the industry having to sustain itself mostly by handles. However in this day and age I would say that would be impossible given the competitive nature of the gaming industry these days.Racing must now compete with so many other forms of gambling that it simply would not survive if it relied solely on handle. I think very few people would aregue that point at least as far as the short term survival of the industry goes.
Your points are very valid. The industry needs to do everything it can to get people to go to the track, to sell it's product and in doing so raise the handle. If it does this it can survive. If it does this and people still don't show up to the track or if people don't bet then it simply means that people just don't care anymore and maybe it's time to call it a day.
I have enjoyed racing for a very long time and although I would like to see it continue I honestly can't say I would be any worse off or miss it terribly if it didn't. I do however feel for the thousands of people who would lose their jobs and so much more if the industry does not survive. For their sake I hope a solution can be found that is fair to everyone including the tax payer.

Although in a genreal sense with Will Y that the whole system needs fixing, I also very much agree with some of the comments from people in the industry that I am hearing which is that no amount of marketing is going to fix this problem. The reason why is very simple. The dynamics of the industry have changed. It costs a lot of money to breed, feed,train and race horses. Having said that it must be noted that the entire gaming industry in Ontario has changed. Whereas once upon a time racing weas the only show in town it no longer is. Racing is now competing with slots, proline, sports books, poker etc. In fairness to the horsemen (and women)there was an agreement in place whereby they agreed to house slots in the racetracks and receive a cut of the profits with the trade off being they accepted the possibility of losing part of the gambling base to the slots. This was not a subsidy it was an agreement by two willing parties. Now we can shout and scream about how racing did nothing to market itslef over the last 14 years. Fair enough, I think the horsemen know that. However, that does not change the fact that no matter how well they market the game it will not make up for a lost fan base because proline, poker, sports betting ewtc are not about to disappear anytime soon.
So, the bottom line in my humble opinion is this.There is no way racing can ever attract enough of a betting fan base that would bet the amounts required to keep racing sustainable solely on betting pools.There must be other revenue streams. Therefore a question must be asked? Does any Ontario government consider racing and the jobs associated with it important enough of an industry to work with the industry in a fair and equitable manner that would be mutually agreeable to the industry, tracks, government and taxpayers of this province? It is my humble opinion once again that the answer to this is yes and that being the case a solution needs to be agreed to where the government needs to recognize that 1) it acted irresponsibly in the manner in which it abruptly cancelled the SARP program and 2)it needs to recognizer and accept it's rle in this agreement and by that I don't mean throwing crumbs to the industry.
The industry for their part has to recognize that they need to do their part as well by doing all they can to provide a product that is fun, fair, and enjoyable enough that the public will want to have it as part of the fabric of this province/country. Governments provide many grants to arts and music and thatre for this very reason even though these do not as a rule gnerate profits.
Finally if I may say so comparing racing to the NBA, NHL or any other professional leaguer does nothing to illustrate the problem because it is like comparing apples to oranges. One writer on this post made the comment that racing has it's own niche and that is very true. Marketing , while a very worhtwhile piece of the puzzle can only do so much.
If I were premier of this province I would personally sit down with all stakeholders and say to them, look we all want this industry to survive for many reasons. We have some bright people in the industry and in this province now lets roll up our sleeves and come up with a solution.
It really should not be so hard.

In reply to by fantom

Mr Riga....

While I agree, if you keep the splits at what they are, then you are right, no amount of promotion would work. Thing is, again, as I have stated, if you re-work the splits, its clear this could work. For the record, I am more than cool with slot money going to horseman..... far less of it however. There has to be a combination of the splits of wagering revenue that could make this work.

Forget thinking as a horse owner, or trainer or whatever..... just look at this from the outside. Moving the percentages and lowering someone that is taking a lot from the handle, could obviously settle for less, if they get more some where else.

This is NOT a suggestion, just an example.

If a promotional deal was struck up so that the track could have an outside promoter, or a MUCH better budget for a promotion team, they could make additional revenue of events at the track. Take for example, the Western Fair. That place has a ton of space, that could be used in conjuction with the racing. You see all them tracks in the US that are having name brand concerts after the races? Concerts are a VERY profitable thing. Mix the two together with some name brand talent (the names do not really matter), you have a new source of revenue, in a few ways. 1) they pay for a concert, 2) they get to see some races and have more people betting and 3) you have booze sales which makes the track operator a happy man. This means losing a portion of his take of the handle wont hurt as much. Now.... do not think I am suggesting concerts every night, but the profit margin on something like that, would EASILY make it more livable for a track owner to part with cash.

Before you crucify the idea, that is a totally half witted example that was not given much thought but if put together in a MUCH larger package.... makes it easier to go to the government and say, "listen, we know you feel the way you do about the slots, and we are going to take less, but we need you to take a bit less from the patrons." The government would look at this in 2 ways, 1) they are saving horse racing by moving revenue from one area, to another, without having to get rid of the industry as a whole, and 2) we worked together with 60k people, so here we can get some votes now.

See, as it stands, horse racing does not have an idea to show the government. It would take some REAL creative thinking to make it work. More people would need to get involved.

Also..... you say the NHL comparisons are like apples and oranges... but yes, they are different, however, apples and oranges, have many similarities. They both grow in warm weather, grow on trees, come from a seed, need water to thrive, have vitamins, are loved treats and eaten by many. Harness has LOTS of similarities to what the NHL and all them are doing. They were struggling and had to work together. So do harness folk. They too have to work with the people at the top, just like the players did. It took NHLPA bosses to sit and haggle with owners about how to make the game bigger. It was not just the owners, it was not just the league. It was not just the players. It was all three. Give and take and lots of listening.

The current splits of revenue from handle, would not work, but that would have to change under any scenario to move forward. There would have to be a LARGE promotion budget that all contribute to.

Perhaps we might consider retrofitting the starting gate to allow for pp 5,6,7,8 to be advantageous to these outside positions providing the safety factor for drivers and horses was also paramount. In lieu of the reduced race dates, maybe an increase in number of races per card could go to 20. I think it is important to negotiate with the tracks to make sure that a plan for the future is beneficial for everyone. The adrenalin rush of live racing has to be reinstalled to new and old patrons. Once the next generation realizes the Internet Poker Sites can be compromised, then we may be able to reach them through advertising about the excitement of live racing. Food for thought.

Dear will Let me help you with the analogy Clinton racetrack vs woodbine. Gananoque Islanders vs Toronto Maple Leafs. As for the real reason why horse racing needs support is luckily not in your hands because I believe the matching formula that is being recommended does make everyone accountable and I don't expect you to agree. Will I believe that ending Sarp as abruptly as the Liberals did was cruel and mean spirited so even If I believed that Sarp wasn't working I would refrain from using the standardbred Canada website to lecture horseman that they deserved it. Just for laughs tell all of us What is the real reason standardbred racing should get support.

In reply to by glenn bechtel

Then Mr Bechtel.... you go ahead think that you did not deserve it.

The entire industry did because you sat for years..... 14 of them, and as a collective, did nothing. Not just you, the trainers, the owners, the track owners, the promotion teams, the government. The entire industry is paying now, for doing so little.

I never compared Woodbine to Clinton, so why are you bringing that up? I do not agree that "matching" is the answer, but a better formula is needed than you had. You survived all these years giving away more money than you took in.

I guess Gary we will agree to disagree on that point. Nevertheless, your other suggestions could only help.

I guess the bottom line is that this sports needs people like us who want to see the game thrive and right now there just doesn't seem to be enough of us.


Harness Racing is in trouble everywhere and unless the horsemen get together and form a lobby to speak as one, lets face it your dead. NASCAR WAS A GOOD OLD BOYS club like harness racing until it got wise and hired a pr firm. Plus the money people put their money up to back it.In harness racing I don't see the money people backing it. SHOW ME THE ME THE MONEY! What Im seeing is a lot of rhetoric and no dollars. Govt handouts are a gone get off you asses and help yourselves promote your product and if it doesn't work get out. The day of handouts are gone.

Mr Yates

I too can see that your passionate about this industry and for that I applaud you.

I still believe that allowing gamblers to bet on 20 tracks takes away the handle of Ontario tracks and the small percentage Ontario tracks receive from it does not make it profitable enough to continue it. I do not have a problem with allowing people to wager on simulcast tracks not in Ontario when there is no live racing from Ontario going on, which will be a large % of the time.

With a new ADW betting will be basically the same as what you currently get with HPI. People with tablets, internet, etc will have no change at all being able to wager from anywhere. The only change would be the only tracks they will be able to bet when Ontario tracks are racing live with be Ontario tracks because that will increase the Ontario tracks handles and help this industry.

Some of my ideas of racing in Ontario

All tracks should be mile tracks or 7/8's maybe with the exception of Flamboro
Stabling should be allowed at all racetracks that currently have barns sitting empty. (Flamboro and Mohawk)
A Ontario racing group(OLR)must have their own ADW that they control
Attractive rebates for bettors must be on a scale of many ADWS in the USA
Betting only allowed on Ontario tracks when they are live
New betting wagers offering larger returns
Funds must be set aside for marketing campaigns each month
Grandstands and facilities must be upgraded to a level second to none
New HD broadcasts all all tracks
Inhouse handicapping show at all tracks
Interviews throughout the races with owners, trainers, drivers.
Promotional events must be staged during live races
How to wager seminars held each week at all tracks
Corporate sponsorship needs to be involved in Ontario racing
Racetrack owners must be held accountable for their lack of actions
Drug policies must be standard for all participants
New guidelines need to be made regarding lengthy appeal times for drug offenders
New guidlines must be made when trainers are suspended and business continues as usual with their assistant trainer or buddy taking over.
A reciprocol agreement with all USTA jurisdictions that does not allow horses suspended in Ontario to race there or allow transfer of ownership when a trainer is one of the owners of that suspended horse.
New blood with creative minds must be involved in building this industry for the future
Race secretaries being more creative (i.e. claiming series, distance races)
More races for Ontario owned and bred only

Mr. Leber I have always read your comments and quite frankly they always make a lot of sense. I certainly agree with you that all harness tracks should be 7/8ths of a mile or longer. My personal preference would be one mile. I think that would set up some great racing. I also think your analogy using the TTC as an example is bang on as well. If people can't get to work they can't work and no work means no taxes paid. Everyone loses.
My personal feeling is that the government assistance certainly has to be part of the equation at least until (if) the industry can ever become self sustainable.
Having said that I think any sensible politican can see that there certainly is an agreement to be made with the industry where revenues from other sources can be and should be used to keep the industry going and dare I say at some point in the future possibly thriving. I think racing is part of our cultural fabric and it would be a shame to see it be lost. Many major cities in the world have racing so it can be done.
I know I sound like a broken record but I will say once again the solution lies in the governments, stakeholders, and fans coming together and having a truthful, and objective discussion about how to move forward where the interests of all are addressed in a fair and equitable mannner that will allow the game to not only be good but be great.

Joe Riga made a very good point about half mile tracks. Outside horses are at a huge disadvantage. If I ever bet half mile, I look for an under bet inside horse that can leave.

But what about an inexperienced bettor? Post position means very little to them and hence they lose their bet and are never attracted to the sport. Just one way things could get better.

If we are to only have 5 harness tracks survive, they should all be 7/8 or larger.

Getting people to actually go to the races is another thing. Why go when you can bet on-line? Toronto is the largest population and Mohawk is a 1 hour or longer drive for most people and the 401 West at 5:30 to 6:30pm is not where I want to be.

The 5 tracks (with the exception of Georgian) are in farm country and the population and money just isnt there to support the industry.

Like I have said all along, the key to this industry is that money was invested into the structure that spun-off jobs and spending for all kinds business and that money came back in spades to the government. With no money coming back from Bingo halls and the loss of horse racing generated taxes etc, the government is set up for a huge loss and high unemployment.

The government has to spend money to make it. It's like the argument about Public Transit. Why spend $50 Billion? Their answer is so people can get to work but the Transit itself doesnt produce a direct return in fact it produces further losses. Maybe transit money should be tied only to money it brings in much like we are being asked to do.

Georg Leber-ICR Racing

In reply to by Gleber

you do not think the money will come back in Taxes Mr Leber?

People that will get the money, will spend the money, just like you do. To think that it will stop once it enters bingo halls and just make pocket books fat is VERY short sighted.

The difference with public transit, is that loss affects millions, and indirectly hundreds of other millions. That cant be compared to this.

You asked a good question, and one that you are missing the obvious on

"Getting people to actually go to the races is another thing. Why go when you can bet on-line?"

The answer is not strictly wagering. You are an owner, so making money is all you care about as it is your livelihood and that is understandable. In order to increase wagering, the answer to your question, is the solution to the whole problem. IF there is a reason to go OTHER than simply betting, then the internet thing will be important later. If people are not fans of your sport, it does not matter if people can bet online.

They need a reason to come. Despite what you might think, there is not really a reason to come now......other than the slots. The empty grandstands night in and night out and 2/3 of the cards prove that. You might think it is enough, but clearly it isnt.

The focus needs to have all parties.... and that includes you owners, in one solid group, where all focus on what they need to do to get people back.

You all blaming each other, and begging the government, isnt winning you much with the public so far.

The problem as I see it is a very complex one and many factors need to be addressed. For starters I can certainly see the need from the horsemans perspective for more tracks being operational and purses growing exponentially. It is economically not viable to race a horse for say a $3000 purse when it costs about 10 times as much as that annually to train and keep a horse. It is useless to breed horses when there is no market for them becuase they are lousy investments and there is nowhere to run them. All of this of course impacts the spin off jobs created by the industry such as vets, farmers,grooms,equipments manufacturers and on and on...
Now from a bettors perspective someone please explain to me why I would bet $100 on a horse starting on the inside on a half mile track when his odds will be puny and the risk does not justify the reward. By the same token explain to me why I would bet a horse starting from post 5 or worse when even though his odds are more enticing there is a much higher chance he will lose?
If that same horse who happens to be running for a $3000 or $4000 claiming tag runs for a $50000 puse instead of $3000 that is great for the horsemen but tell me how does it help the bettor?
The answer is it does not. And therefore the bettor will not bet. The grandstands will be empty and the racetrack owners will not feel any pressure to keep them clean, provide good food etc etc becuase there will be no-one there to see it anyways.
The internet and related activity are a double edged sword. In the interest of fair disclosure I bet mostly on the internet. The truth is I could care less about Flamboro,Yonkers, Grand River,Plainridge,Northfield Park, Retama,etc etc.
These are B tracks where the betting is terrible and there is no reaon for me to bet. I bet on Woodbine, Mohawk and the Meadowlands, Belmont, Hollywood Park anbd other tracks where the wagering pools are large enough that a large bet will not kill my odds. That makes it worthwhile.
The problem is that by allowing me to bet on the internet it keeps the grandstands empty. The racing experience is lost (and in the case of newcomers never even experienced). Watching a race on a computer is nothing compared to being there live but unfortunatley this is the world we now live in. So how do you sell the sport when you're making it easy for the fanbase to not even have to be there. How do they experience the thrill?
So therein lies the conundrum. The ndustry needs the track and the purses to be able to make a living. But they also need the bettor because otherwise they are only racing for themselves. No government in it's right mind would subsidize or assist an industry that survives and serves only for itself. The government s not stup and they have seen this. They have seen the empty grandstands and lack of interest and has no interest in whipping a dead horse so to speak.
TYhe solution lies in all the parties all the stakeholders cming together to find a viable solution for the common good where all parties are happy with the outcome. The government should assist the industry by whatever means are available to do so with the stipulation that the industry needs to step up to the plate and make the game exciting, fun, fair and honest so as to grow a fan base that may one day make the industry self sustainable. The tracks need to find a way to attract bettors and in this regard it needs to be creative. Maybe offer a win4 or win 5 or daily double that combines runners at different tracks and maybe even different breeds. Maybe then bettors will start looking at the B tracks. Find a way to make a bettor want to bet a horse on a small half mile b track by somehow providing set odds. say for example if you bet within 3 minutes to post you are guaranteed the odds at the time of your wager.

Maybe look at ways fo converting half mile tracks to one milers thereby increasing every horses chance of winning and therefore increasing wagers on a race.

I don't have all the answers but the fact remains that untill ALL the issues are addressed that make horesmen happy, bettors happy and the government and tracks happy the industry will continue to decline into non existence. And that will happen sooner rather then later.

What really worries me about all this report and recomendations is that it is all so vague and can be interpeted in so many differnt ways we need more figures and details to have a better understanding of what this goverment and this panel really have in store for are industry over the years to come. In the beginging when all of this started i kept thinking something had to change that they possibly coundnt want to throw this industry under the bus but after reading this report iam really starting to come to the realization that we are just going to die a little slower death now, and at least the goverment will save face now and say they truly tried to save or industry.|In my opinion this was never really about building new casinos and modernizing gambling it was only about creating a smoke screen so they could get away with putting slot parlours in bingo halls without a fight . I hope iam wrong and i have been trying to stay positive through out, but it seems to get harder and harder all the time, and i cant believe this hasnt created a puplic outrage about all the money these private bingo hall owners are getting now and 0% going back to the national treasery of ontario. Why does this panel in any of there recomendations and input never touch on those issues about why bingo hall owners recieve so much of the take on there product but the horseman getting say even 5 % or any % in the future is not possible when it is proven that there is increased profits for everyone when there is live racing . Will feel free to criticize what i have wrote ,you seem real inteligent for a liberal.


Sorry Sir, but your living in the past. Isolation will not solve the problem. The younger generation wants quick action (which one track alone can not provide), ease of access through internet, ipads and tablets.

Your soloution harkens back to the days when there were no cell phones and tracks shut-off the payphones in the track so you couldn't call your bookie.

Casino's are successful becasue there are a wide variety of games (slots, blackjack, roulette etc) to choose from. Expecting to add fans by allowing them to play only one "b" track is ridiculous.

While I appreciate your passion - it is a fact that most people simply do not care to play any of these tracks. Trying to force the players to play this after simulcasting has already been instituted is folly. It would be like telling people to back to the horse and buggy after they have already been in a car.

Getting people to play these (or any harness track) must start with the product and people vote with their money. Most people have voted that they dont want to watch second tier horse go around a 1/2 mile oval and watch the inside horses win 70% of the races and pay $3.20 to win. Limiting the betting opportunities will not change that - only changing the product will.

Dear Will After reading your 350 comments I would assume you believe that 100 percent of the purse account for racing should come from one revenue source and that is commissions from wagering. With all due respect I have a different opinion I believe that the racing industry can be funded partially by other sources of revenue because if they arent all racing will occur in big metropolitan areas. Just as Junior c hockey teams have 50/50 draws during games I believe the horse industry can try and create other funding then just wagering on their product. I agree that this industry derived too much of their revenue from alternate sources {slots) but your constant whipping of the same horse should evoke a 250 dollar fine and a 10 day suspension for excessive use of the whip.

For what it's worth here is my two cents. As a former owner of standardbred horses I can certainly understand the need for the B tracks to remain operational as this provides a) a demand for a market b) a place for owners to race their horses and c) a place where young horse can develop into great horses. However while great in theory this doesn't always work in reality and is no economically viable.
Yes, having more tracks give horses a place to run. However if as an owner it costs me $40 k or so to train, feed and have y horse looked after and yet I am racing once a week for a $3000 purse, well coming from someone who works in the investment banking industry I would clearly say this is not a very good investment at all. A wonderful hobby maybe, but a not so lucrative investment. So from an owners perspective having more tracks doesn't really accomplish much unless the purses are better.
Now lets look at this from a bettors perspective which is where my interest in racing first started.
As a bettor, unless you are a small bettor (and I'm not saying everyone should be a big bettor)the b tracks offer terrible wagering possibilities. For one thing most of them are half milers, which in my opinion are the worst size tracks for harness racing as the ousdie horse are severely disadvantaged and more often then not lose. Because of this the inside horses always take most of the betting action and are overbet. Couple this with the very small pools where a $100 bet will change a horses odds dramatically and there is zero enticement to bet. Far too often I have bet on a horse where I may have thought I was getting a decent price at 3 or 4 to 1 as they are going behind the gate only to see them go off at 6-5 AND LOSE. There is simply no value in that bet.
As a prime example of this this past weekend and last weekend Pocono hosted some racing of the highest calibre horses. While it was nice to watch the top horse races it provided very little excitement. Last week almost every horse who won had the pocket trip. Horse that were first over or second over could not get to the wire first. On top of that the odds fluctuated wildly and so as a bettor I didn't bother betting the card. There was simply no money to be made and unfortunately this is true of every b track card on every single day.
The point I am making is that you can have all the tracks you like with as high a purse as you like but if the betting pools aren't there and gamblers cannot get a good value risk for their bet then they simply won't bet. They would be fools to.
If racing is going to survive three things need to happen.
1) the racing needs to be exciting, fair, and honest.
2) harness racin should be on a one mile track as this configuration is ideal for providing good flow to a race (just look at the Meadowlands)
3) racing needs bettors, regardless of how much money it rakes in slots. No pools no odds. No odds, no bettors. No bettors, no racing. It's pretty simple.

The horse people can scream all day and jump up and down and stomp their feet all they want about the SARP program being gone. However an honest look will reveal that the SARP was just a temporary band aid. I have been saying for many years that if the government pulled the SARP program racing would be dead.

Anyone who has been to a track and saw the empty grandstands night after night year after year wouldve been able to see that.

It's a shame that (to borrow a racing term) the horse racing industry had blinders on and din't see it coming.

In reply to by fantom

Mr Riga --- you have this exactly right, but horseman do not seem to care where the money comes from, and slots seems to be something they feel entitled to.

Mr Bechtel --- carefully reading my comments, you would see that I do not feel that all money should come from 1 source, and that being wagering. I am not opposed to slot money going to the horseman. HOWEVER, in no way to I endorse any plan that has been thought up here, as all make the harness VERY reliant on that money. SO far, harness has not given the government or taxpayers a real reason to keep the partnership. It appears to be "we race, we show up, good enough" kinda mentality and everyone else has to make the fans come. Forget "us horseman put lots of money back into the game and pay taxes"..... anyone that got that money, bars, winning gamblers, bingo halls, all would do the same. Either way, the money would get back into the tax system. Mr Bechtel..... comparing a professional sport where people do make millions of dollars (not everyone does, but look how many do and have), to junior C? WOW !!!!! You are comparing harness racing to JUNIOR C? Man, that isnt thinking too much of the sport.

Mr Bush --- "there isn't a trainer,owner, or driver that hasn't done more than what is asked of them to help the industry. In fact many of us are dismayed by the lack of effective marketing. Many suggestions have fallen on deaf ears."

Strange you say that, when you keep saying my comments are misdirected. If you read anything I said and did not deflect it, I made comments about what other fledgling leagues did. They did not say, "it fell on deaf ears"..... you have no unity among yourselves Mr Bush. You do not have something like the NHLPA with a strong voice (who I might add, ALSO does not have someone in the industry leading them, a HINT you guys might want to keep in mind) that goes to the tracks and says, "ok, what can we do". Also.... do not forget, the Standardbred Canada idea was shuffled years ago about a percentage of purse going to marketing.... who shot that down? Horseman.

You also said..."Racing participants regularly hold on camera interviews,charity events,press releases, newspaper,trade articles etc."

Ok, show me an article from this year about any race from Rideau OTHER than the stake race. Show me how much you appear in the Toronto Sun other than entries. Interviews....... ummmmmmm on what station? No one shows horseracing any more. So you were not on a province wide channel. Show me the last time a driver gave an interview to TSN. Wait.... that has not happened in YEARS.

So please tell me, how this is a track's responsibility to make those people you said are so willing to do?

Last you said this..... "Do you honestly think NASCAR,baseball or even poker participants devised their marketing equation. Seriously? Even you aren't that naive. Without effective,skilled management you have nothing."

Its clear you have not read a thing I have wrote. I am the making reference to them, and I point out what each of those associations did. THEY WENT TO MARKETING PEOPLE TO DO WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO DO !!!!!!!!!! They all have outside people doing what horseman think they are. It was not the team owners that hashed things out. It was not the Major League owners that made baseball relevant on its own. The players worked with the leagues. The owners cant market the game with out the faces. The players cant make money without helping the owners.

I devised the plan, you keep telling me I am wrong. Go Figure...... im the people you are trying to keep.

In reply to by Will Yamakva

Will... Two statements you never answered 1. If you doubled WFR handle(and its substantial-250k), it still wouldn't make racing sustainable given the costs. 2. the report states that there is no other jurisdiction in the world that has a successful program without some kind of support be it enhanced revenue through slots or direct government intervention. Thats just a fact. But you never really crunch any numbers or provide hard data. All you seem to supply is a vague analogy. It costs a major B track upwards of 30k per night to run a program. If the handle was a million dollars at 3 %(what the tracks get via simulcast ageements) thats 30k in revenue. The track takes 15k and the horsemen get 15k for purses. It still falls way short. Nike can't make money selling horse shoes like it can selling basketball shoes. Hence the lack of endorsement and its spinoffs. Racing is a niche sport, hence the lack of newspaper coverage. It always has been and always will be. Can you improve it through effective marketing? Sure, am all for it. But without enhanced revenue streams, betting streams are factually not enough. The meadowlands, with its $3 million handle is even banking on this down the road. In the future,instead of the usual, bring us some hard facts/numbers so we can take you seriously.

In reply to by chris bush

Mr Bush....

You do realize you are making the mistake most people are in all this. You are working with current percentages and this and that. I do not need to show you numbers nor need to validate anything as its clear you only want things the way they were. Precisley why I have said over and over that all parties need to get together and rework the entire package. This means not just on the marketing end.... but the breakdown of who takes what. Dont give me that example you did..... because if you have been listening..... all parties need to get together and rework these splits.

Ive stated more than enough times that betting will not be sole source of income. Other entertainment and other avenues of revenue are available.

That example you gave me.... is an example of racetracks, horseman, and government being out of sync.

Dont tell me about niche this or that for media coverage..... your sport used to have reporters at your tracks .

Richard Muntagh.... the lady whose name I cant remember in London that used to have that show on Rogers tv in london. Again.... if all groups work together, you can go from mainstream to at least as popular as poker.

In reply to by chris bush

I did give an answer last night, but by this point in the morning, it was no published, so I hope they disregard it, as I have a better answer.

Mr Bush

Let me answer your points as you addressed them.

1) Since you want to talk about doubling the handle, and pointing out they still do not make money. Why are you COMPLETELY ignoring what I am saying in that the entire system needs to be redone? I have stated countless times, the ENTIRE industry needs to sit down, and re-work things. You seem to want to be fixated on the current numbers and the current take out, and the current split. The resolution to your problem, is all that changing.

2) Who cares what the report says when you have harness folk continually saying, "The SARP was a successful program". That report is just a guide. It appears horseman just want things as they were, as it appears you do sir. IT HAS NOT WORKED AND WAS NOT SUCCESSFUL. You need to realize that. I have stated many times that I am okay with slot revenue being part of the mix, however, again, if you have been reading what I wrote, the dependency on it, has to be MUCH MUCH MUCH less. Also.... there is not another JURISDICTION that does not need assistance, but there is not another PROFESSIONAL sport, that relies solely on government sport like yours.


do not tell me that they did not have reporters at your tracks.

Kathy Rumelski used to be a regular in the London Paper.
Joe Perlove was a reporter
Perry Lefko used to have regular horse articles
Richard Muntagh used to be a regular in the paper.

And there was others. Also, Nike? Is that the best example of sponsorship dollars you can come up with? Horse shoes? Come on. If that is where you think sponsorship dollars come from....

Do you remember the Mel Lastman "Nooooooooooooooooobody" ads for some furniture store? They used to have hockey player and other Toronto athletes in those ads. Why cant they or car dealerships or other things like that....... all have some spot in this? Why think it has to be sports apparel that is your main sponsor? Hell I see more ads with Canadian Curlers on TV, and Nike does not sell sliding shoes or brooms.

More and more...... its clear that horseman should NOT be leading this charge, but people that have marketing, and business experience. I have said it once, I am going to repeat myself, "Marketing and promotional folk should be co-coordinating this and horseman should consult. Marketing people have as much business in your barns, and you dont trying to fix this mess"

You do not have to take me serious Mr Bush, but judging by the responses that I am getting, more and more of you are. Remember, I have nothing to gain and lose by this, you do. You might want to listen to people that have experience in running successful businesses and promotions (not saying that is me specifically) as it is clear by the situation you are in, and the suggestions to get out, the entire industry blames each other and ran it to where it is now. You might wanna look outside as the option of the government doing it, isnt to your liking as you can see by the comments to this topic.

In reply to by Will Yamakva

Again Will, not one hard number or solid fact. Just a vague generalization of "reworking the system". Tell me why Mel would want to sponsor you? He won't just toss money your way. He'll probably want a cost/benefit analysis. That excludes you. I proved numerically that if you were wonder marketer and quadrupled WFR handle you would still be losing money. Tell me exactly how you're going to change the whole structure of the entire North American betting system to make it workable. You're doing what politicians do- give vague answers and overly optimistic projections without thought or merit or fact. Do wind turbines ring a bell? Perhaps you can fool some of the less enlightened, but eventually you'll have to deliver something concrete to make yourself credible. Personally, I try to make informed decisions that are realistically fact based. Silly me. Have a good one Will-this has been way too circular for me.

In reply to by chris bush

Chris, I'm curious. What is wrong with wagering being the primary revenue vehicle for the horse racing industry? Under SARP, slot machine revenues were the primary revenue vehicle, and it seems to be so for many racetracks in North America. I think that is a highly unsustainable business model (i.e., relying on an outside source of income that is not internal to the industry). Even worse, none of the SARP money was used for industry promotion. I ask you this -- find me one reference where SARP money was used for industry promotion and marketing? You won't be able to. If wagering revenue cannot sustain the industry, then clearly horse racing is too expensive of a sport to maintain. Just like how if it's too expensive for me to own and maintain 10 houses, maybe shouldn't own 10 houses. Maybe I should only have 1 or 2 houses only. I think the horse racing industry needs to cut down its size -- the unsustainable racetracks need to be closed, and increase the business of the ones that are sustainable. Ontario only has a population of 13 million, but it has more racetracks than California (which has a population similar to all of Canada) and New York (which also has a much higher population than Ontario).

In reply to by chris bush

It is clear that you miss the point of my posts. I am not here to give you numbers. I am not here to brush or stroke your ego or your sense of hope. I do not have the books in front of me, so how would or why should I give you want you want or desire in those numbers?

The point I have been making all along, is the all of those numbers, and all of those facts, and all the ideas, should be put together by people that can make a turn around in the sport. It has been the horseman, the racetracks and the government thus far. Clearly, that has not worked.

Now, one of them, the one with the most power, is changing it's role and it hurts you.

It is also very sad that you suggest those that have agreed with me on other posts, are "fooled" or "less enlightened". That attitude has you where you are. Remember, I stand to gain zero from these posts or whatever happens to harness racing. You might want to pay attention to how other professional sports figured it out.

Also.... you proved nothing. You proved that if you use the current breakdown, the doubling or what not you suggested that would not work. My suggestion, is that all the numbers and what not change and is agreed upon by everyone. THEREFORE.... since you cannot insert an equation based on what would be worked out in that meeting that I suggest happen between designated leaders of all factions, you cant say how doubling the handle would work out. You simply doubled it and used today's current break down. It is obvious that cant work. So really, you proved nothing.

Again, this is why other's build businesses and industries, and other's work the parts in them. I know nothing about shoeing a horse, or what size hopples would best suit my horse, and I am not trying to pretend I do. I do know about building things from the ground up. I do know about promotion and marketing. It is quite insulting the manner you address me sir. Respect is given, please return it.

Dear Mr. Will Y

Did you know that the revenue from the "non slot machines" at the first six "modernized" bingo halls has already hit $172 million. Meaning that bingo hall owners- actually owner!- have received $80.84 million for housing the "non slot machines" in their buildings. Are you trying to tell me that the "bingo handle" at these six locations combined has been anywhere near $80.84 million over that same time period? I would imagine that the "bingo handle" never reaches six figures. As a matter of fact I have worked a few bingos for minor sports fundraising and the total bingo handle was about $12,000 with the association I was helping receiving $750.
I would actually agree with you on some of your points, if the government did indeed take the money that racing industry was getting and put it directly into health care, education, etc. However we all know that is not the case. If nobody received that money then you in fact would make some valid points, but if someone is going to receive that money, the government will never get a better return then it did from racing. Why are you not on a bingo blog complaining about the dirty bingo halls,the lack of parking at most locations, the terrible food and the clientele or does a guy calling out numbers to the same 200 people (out of human decency I won't start talking about the bingo demographic)every night constitute a "good" product in your eyes?
On last thing: why are you so angry?

Nino DeChellis

In reply to by ninod

"I would imagine that the "bingo handle" never reaches six figures. As a matter of fact I have worked a few bingos for minor sports fundraising and the total bingo handle was about $12,000 with the association I was helping receiving $750."

They also were not giving away $30k to the bingo players, while only taking in $12000 in revenue like Sudbury, Dresden, Clinton and a ton of other small tracks do.

Im not angry. It pains me to watch a sport I love, be so poorly ran, and the people that profit from it the most, be 1) so rude to me 2) pointing the fingers at everyone else and not saying they are wrong as well 3) laughable as a taxpayer that is being tricked into thinking that the money would not have gone back into tax revenue if the money from slots was not given to horseman. No matter who gets it..... is liking spending it here.

Mr Yates

How much money do you think is bet on Grand River, Georgian, Flamboro and Western Fair from ADW'S based in the USA? You could poll gamblers from the USA and you would find that most gamblers never even pay attention to these tracks. THE HANDLES AT THOSE TRACKS HAVE SHOWN IT FOR THE PAST 15 YEARS !! Who cares if you can't bet Lone Star, Delta Downs, Retama Park, Fairmount Park, Marquis Downs or Los Alamitos at the same time when Grand River is on Friday nights?

If you don't have the option to bet those other tracks and you are looking to gamble, then what track do you think they will be betting? Let me ask you this, if Grand River was the only track you could bet then would the handle their increase and would that track benefit from it?

How do you expect these tracks to grow the handles that are needed to be successful? Is it going to be with people having the chance to wager on 20 tracks at the same time a live track is running in Ontario?

To Will, "scanning international jurisdictions the panel could not find a single example of a viable industry without some form of public support". Pretty much all industry including professional sport-run by billionaires-receives some sort of public funding. Not everything is completely black and white, ever. Even if you doubled the handle at the better tracks, it still wouldn't be enough. Question is, is it worth the investment? You might want to place the blame for our issues where it belongs-at track management. Horsemen have no say in spending on infrastructure ,promotion, etc.

In reply to by chris bush

Mr Bush....

Public support for the NHL is slot revenue? How about The PGA.... how much does the government give them? While they might get a bit of public funding, it isnt the main source of money.

Here you go again wanting to place blame elsewhere.

Mr Bush, it is not the track's job to make your drivers and horses a star. Especially when there is no assurances, your stars will be racing there. You see other professional sports, the stars get involved and work with the owners and come to a reasonable solution. The NHL realized the players are great marketing tools and the players realized the potential of income rising, as a result of that. The players did not do what you are doing.... "we are not making enough and the owners of the team are responsible". They work with the owners. That is why each team has TONS of sponsorship.

If horseman have no say, they might want to unify and get a voice and have a say. The track cant promote you, if you do not help them. The track has no business promoting its stars, if the stars have no interest in aiding in the promoting.

With your rationale, its every one else's job but yours to make the sport better.

Show me a single professional sport where the participants are not FAR more involved in the whole process and is struggling like harness is.

You need to lose the "horseman have no say......"

when the whole industry needs to not divide themselves and fix themselves as a whole. Horseman, track owners, media, trainers,.... right now, your finger pointing is not helping you a red cent. The NHL rebounded. The NBA rebounded. Curling Canada made itself relevant, and Poker is stealing your money..... why? Because the players did not point the finger elsewhere, but worked with the people that have a say about "infrastructure and promotion".

In reply to by Will Yamakva

Will, there isn't a trainer,owner, or driver that hasn't done more than what is asked of them to help the industry. In fact many of us are dismayed by the lack of effective marketing. Many suggestions have fallen on deaf ears. Racing participants regularly hold on camera interviews,charity events,press releases, newspaper,trade articles etc. You would know that if you didn't carry such a biased hostility toward horse people. Again, it is ultimately the job of management, just like in pro sport to be the synergy. They must be willing/capable participants. Do you honestly think NASCAR,baseball or even poker participants devised their marketing equation. Seriously? Even you aren't that naive. Without effective,skilled management you have nothing. And that goes for any industry. But you know that. Instead of wasting your valuable time in this forum, maybe you can devise a plan,take it to whomever you think can deliver it best and do something constructive for a change. Being an uninformed, chronic armchair critic is unbecoming.

As an owner of standardbreds who is not a resident of Ontario, I cannot express my opinion on the way the Government has handled this file at the ballot box.Nor can I participate in the meetings to be held at the various tracks. The only thing I can do is to take this report for what it is, namely the continuation of the present situation in which the owner of an average horse has absolutely no hope of breaking even. With the reduced purses and racing dates cut by better than 50% the mathematics just do not work. As is the case with most owners, my involvement in the sport is driven by my love for horses and not by the desire to make "big bucks". The best definition of insanity I have ever seen is " something one does over and over again in the belief that the next outcome will be different". With the illusion of a potentially profitable horse now off the table, continuing as an owner of standardbreds in Ontario may be as close as one comes to fitting the definition to a tee.
Thus , unless things change in a hurry, come November, I will have to choose to do the only sane thing left and that is to vote with my money.

Come on folks,Does anyone remember how poor the purses were and how dumpy the SB tracks were before SARP. The only places that were licenced for slots were these tracks and the horsemen quickly realized that there were dollars to be made. They thought the money would go on forever and as they jogged passed the toteboard they passed the empty grandstand and did they ever ask themselves who is covering the purse - obviously not. Didn't take this panel long to see this.


I don't agree at all with that comment.

Yeah lets do that and watch all the other tracks ban the Ontario signal and watch the handle drop even further.

Rideau Carleton may want to stay at independent as possible since they seem to be doing ok with their handle and off-track betting availability. Sounds like they would have made a deal with the devil if they would have signed a deal to get transitional funding.

How does this industry think that not having standardbreds race at Woodbine will help it grow? Toronto has 3 million people in the area and if you took a poll of people in Toronto they wouldn't know where Campbellville even is.

My proposal to the panel would be to have a separate ADW that houses bets for Ontario tracks only during live racing, then try to have foreign simulcasting when live Ontario racing is not on. YOU CANNOT BET ON ANY OTHER TRACK THEN AN ONTARIO TRACK WHEN AN ONTARIO TRACK IS RACING LIVE !!

A further idea is to take tracks like Western Fair and give it a makeover. Would you take anyone to that grandstand? I would love to see all the tracks in Ontario with the exception of Flamboro made into a mile track. From what I understand their is money being held by the ORC. Take this money and re-size Grand River, Georgian and Western Fair. Having a mile track is better for the horses and better for the handles as you can have 10 horse fields. If you're going to try and change this business for the future you had better do it right and do not take any shortcuts, do it the right way. This industry has long needed a makeover and to move into the future facilities will have to be upgraded and public friendly.

The only horse persons we need to hear from about fixing the industry are the horse owners and the bettors. If the owners don't buy and the bettors don't bet, we don't need the rest of the industry.

Snobleton's column from yesterdays Toronto Sun should be published here, but first we need to find a Doctor who can help with his sore shoulder!
What sore shoulder you ask? The one he got from patting himself and the rest of the Wise Men on the back!
The sad part of this is I think he actually believes the nonsense he wrote!

I agree with Mr. Lebers' comments and would like to add my two cents, the contradictory statements made by this panel and their remedies are shameful. The Gov. should outlaw internet gaming sites as well as off-track betting sites.

Taking a retrospective look at things, the three architects of this fiasco are now history....Duncan, McGuinty and Godfrey. There may have been others within or closely associated with the OLG who had more than a passing interest in the cancellation of the SARP. I don't believe the Drummond Report was the was merely 'convenient'. Once again, in retrospect, would Premier Wynne and the current Finance Minister have made the same decision or would they have re-negotiated and redefined SARP with the industry? This panel seems to be going down the same path that was orchestrated early in 2012 by the aforementioned MIA's.......reduced # of tracks, reduced purses, reduced days of racing, lost jobs, etc. The wheel is being re-invented at considerable cost, both direct and indirect cost!! In my view, and I'm certain it is shared by many in both the government and the industry, is that the SARP should have been re-negotiated and redefined based on each track's wagering performance for their allocated race days as opposed to a straight 10/10% split. Unfortunately, in that scenario, there may have been tracks that couldn't continue but, like any other business, if you can't sell your product, the business will eventually fail.

In reply to by Phil Porter

Completely agree Phil ... the current panel had a specific agenda that was influenced by Duncan, McGuinty and Godfrey. If the new Premiere wanted to distance herself from the previous administration (which I'm sure she did), she should have taken the time and effort to choose a new panel that would have hopefully included one or two members that are directly involved in Ontario's Horse Racing Industry. As you say, SARP needed to be fine-tuned and redefined. It's a little mind boggling that this three man panel can be so critical of a Partnership that brought the province a billion dollars a year and at the same time supported an industry of 50,000 plus.

In reply to by Phil Porter

If anyone questions why the government thinks the current situation was not working...

look at Saturday and Sunday results from this past weekend.

One track gave away over $100k, but only took in $25k in bets
One track gave away over $35k and only took in $18k in bets
One track gave away over $30k and only took in $5k in bets.

This has happened EVERY week for the past 13 summers.

While horseman have been saying, "we have generated XXXX billions of the government".... is the government not giving you the money back by allowing these places that are continually losing money, week after week?

With Woodstock, Windsor and Sarnia all not racing, look how many hundreds of thousands are not being given away each week.

I think increasing our handle should start with any slots located at racetracks being closed on race days. Also, these new machines strictly for racing should be the only ones allowed at the racetracks. I've got a funny feeling they already know they won't be as popular. Has anyone looked at what our handles were the day before slots arrived and drawn a graph till the day SARP ended.
Half the money and half the days won't be sustainable going forward so even more cuts are in our future. The number of people able to make a living in our sport will be drastically reduced except for the new government agency ORC # 2 which I'm sure the horsemen & women will get to pay for.

As a person born and raised in the east end of Toronto I remember the glory years of horseracing at Greenwood Raceway when I was old enough to attend. I enjoyed both breeds but ended up with standardbreds as my choice of breeds. Greenwood Raceway was accessible by any transportation including the streetcar stopping right at the entrance. Imagine having to line up to get in a racetrack, I do! As the saying goes a horse is a horse is a horse, so insulting our thoroughbred neighbors is not in our best interest. Remember the divide and conquer battle initiated by the government in 2012? As an individual I am no fan of this transition team! However they do give us some ponderables, such as we forgot this is no longer the only game in town as it used to be so we were guilty of ignoring our customers. This could be rectified easily! We as a group were guilty of dividing our associations into many groups which played into the divide and conquer scenario! We need to return to one association speaking on our behalf! Will it be easy? Lets all drop our shields as in one of my earlier comments! Anything less will be giving up. Some of the other comments by this panel have been covered by others and most of the postings have merit so I*ll leave you my extended family with this comment- Is the glass half full or half empty? If the liquid is not fit to drink, does it really matter! In unity there is strength and we sure require a lot of that if any of us are to survive!

Dear Transition panel. If you wonder why the standardbred industry has such a problem with your reports I will quote my grade 5 English teacher who said that make sure you don't say something really stupid early in your paper because it will discredit the rest of your ideas. To use Thinking Out Loud with all due respect to the owners, as the example of excellence in standardbred racing, compared to Northern Dancer shows your lack of research or knowledge base of Ontario standardbred racing. On the thoroughbred side you use the most meaningful stallion ever raised in Ontario and on the standardbred side you use a horse who finished fourth in the preferred a day after your report was released. There are a number of quality concepts in your report but unfortunately your credibility was zapped due to your lack of research. P.S. You missed the most important standardbred, and possibly horse, in Canadian racing who was an Ontario bred named Somebeachsomewhere. The other thing you should know before using Thinking out loud is that his stallion Ponder was moved out of the province after the Liberal announcement.

The city of Toronto needs $50 Billion for public transportation. Somedays there are only a handful of people on the subway at certain times, yet it runs faithfully up and down Yonge and Bloor etc regardless of the number of passengers. They pay a few dollars to use it and it always operates at a loss.

There are numerous construction and roadworks projects across Toronto that require tax dollars many thousands of times greater that what is alotted for horse racing. But horse racing only affects us country hicks .

So yes we are swimming upstream, but we are swimming. A comment like "This is a great day for horse racing" is just insulting to the people who work hard and honestly in a business they love.

Thoroughbreds are virtually unaffected. Harness Racing will survive but it won't be pretty for a while. We can only hope that as we grow and thrive, those people who are truly fans will support us.

The Liberals are now realizing that they have destroyed our sport and lost votes. The good news is that when they fear losing votes they throw money at it to try to save seats.

Georg Leber-ICR Racing

First I think that getting the horses to run at Mohawk is a great idea...How can you ask fans to be close the sport when the horses run so far from the stand or go to the track and watch on got to get the fan close to the action.

BIG MISTAKE...they need to increase the purses at B tracks. Its OK to reduce the number of tracks, but you cant race for purse of $3,000.00. The trainers , vet ect....are not reducing their fees. So the owners are getting out of the game. If the owners are getting out who will be buying the yearlings, paying the trainers. You cant have owner-trainers only, the game will die. If you look at a B track program, today, approx. 70% of the owners are one year it will be then the game will die.

Last year the Industry sent an e-mail to the people asking them to buy at Harrisburg promising almost no changes to the that some grassroot runs for 12K per race, compare to 24K last the same cost, its makes it lot less attractive for owners....

The only conclusion I have is the panel was given the mandate to shut down horse racing in Ontario slowly and they are doing a great job. What business can do without the buyers......The panel knows the have taken the owner out of the game...who will pay for the yearling, trainers (who needs their income for living expenses, not re-investing in the game)vets food suppliers, hotel and restaurant, taxes ect.....You cant tell me the panel or the government is stupid enough not to realize this. The last thing the game needs is to lose their owners with the families and friends that attended the game, less fans...OHRIA is now looking for feedback...what feedback, you can see the industry is dying look at the number of horses gone to the states, the owners are going....visit a B track, the owners are gone....even if you increase the handle, who will buy the horses...the trainer-owners are having a tough time on their own...imagine in a few years from now....

Sad to see.

It seems to me that we have just witnessed the end of Standardbred racing in Ontario. The thoroughbreds have become the only game in town. Seeing that the standardbreds make up 75% of the entire horse racing industry I think that the government has also thrown rural Ontario to the wolves as well. I sincerely hope that the thousands of second class citizens of the Standardbred industry realize just how badly they have been shafted and that this panel doesn't know their ???? from a hole in the ground. Stanardbreds will no longer be allowed at Woodbine. That's a joke. If I need a Gaming fix , it certainly won't be in Ontario. I will cross the border and donate my money to the Americans. Is anyone surprised by the findings of THIS so called panel?

I think the most interesting observation from the panel was that SARP enabled breeders to produce horses of limited value. While I agree that the industry can see itself flooded with horses with little or no genetic potential, I do not think that is the fault of any of the breeding establishments within the industry. One tier racing is like the NHL with no farm team. Regardless of attempts to "breed the best" there will still be many horses though ear marked for success on paper, that will fail to live up to the breeders,owners, and trainers expectations. Where so these horses go and why would people invest when there is such limited opportunities to earn that much needed return on their initial and long term investment.
Has anybody figured out the formula from projected racetracks and racedays to determine the number of horses that would actually be needed to fill the boxes?
I would also like to point out that the wagering on the various divisions is based not so much on the quality of the horses, but the location of the races relative to the gambling interest and dollars. Compare for instance the 3yr old grass roots at Mohawk June 27 and the 2 year old trotters at Kawartha. The pools are consistent with all the other pools on the card regardless of the "division" as stated by the panel. The industry needs to take the lead on the restructuring issue and I don't think know if they have and we simply don't have that information. It is almost like complaining about who got elected when you didn't vote. Take the lead...propose the restructuring needed..make the cuts that we all know are needed and save the industry.

Once again we hear about Bill C-290 stuck in Senator Limbo for approx. 15 mths. And I agree with Mr Brown, it sure took a lot of time and resources to write this document. Any idea what this panel cost the prov. tax payer? This sounds so good I wouldn't be surprised if all three of the panel members purchased a yearling at one of the premier sales.

This certainly looks like the same old story we've heard in the past from these elected officials .....Only difference is .....A DIFFERENT MASK!!!!

So much for "saving" and "growing" the industry! What a farce. Yet another knife in the backs of horsepeole across the province!

What I have said all along is that there is very little thinking going into these plans. Most of it is fluff and politics.

I agree with reducing the number of tracks to 5 and geographically most of the horses are in the area between the 5 tracks. Cutting out Woodbine was designed by the Thoroughbred people to keep Toronto bettors for themselves-it has always been about Throughbreds.

Okay so where is the rest of the plan that would give the industry any hope? Where is the talk of specific money? The talk is all about tying it to wagering yada yada yada. What in this plan says to a buyer-wow I gotta stock up the barn with yearlings? Remember last year how the sellers bought back 35% of their horses because the prices were too low?

Let's look at the tracks themselves. 3 of the 5 are half mile. Regardless of the fact that this is a bad product for the bettors because inside horses win 70% of the time, what about the number of horses per race? 7 across and a trailer. At 7/8 mile tracks there are 10 per race. Why not put in the plan assistance to increase all the tracks to 7/8 or better yet 1 mile and really have world class racing and consistent through the circuit?

Finally more government involvement is ridiculous. That's just going to eat up money in high paid salaries and a bunch of people that can't run a business. Also letting the OLG have the reins is giving the fox the henhouse. If they finish the job and eliminate harness racing then they can better make their case for Casinos and extended gaming.

Make no mistake about it, this is a great plan if your agenda is to wipe out harness racing to the point that they become a novelty county fair exhibition.

I will attend on July 9 at Woodbine but no doubt I will not get a chance to speak. Organizations will be there and monopolize the conversation and praise the government and they will slap each other on the back and announce that it was a unanimous success.

Georg Leber-ICR Racing

Impressive if you like more bureaucracy and less racing. Just what we need another government agency full of political appointees and friends having nice salaries and staff along with ever increasing budgets to do their work. Now how will this be paid for as a self-sustaining industry by you the stakeholders. Even better if you own a farm in Eastern Ontario better sell if you get the chance because the circuit racing they are talking about will be easily defined as Flamboro,Western,Grand River,Georgian and Mohawk so think about setting up shop somewhere in that region where your costs and expenses are at least triple what they are now.

Less tracks, less races, less money. Less is more is the moto for the transitional panel. Good luck to everyone still involved in racing, your going to need it.

After reading this report and trying to digest it's contents, I am dismayed at the approach taken by the gov't in that the panel has relegated horse racing to a fraction of what it once was. Furthermore, with only five tracks racing, the breeding industry has been all but decimated. Where is the demand for Ontario breds going to come from? What about the job losses? We currently have 867 race days. Is that going to be cut as well with just five tracks and Ottawa? If we weren't subsidized before with the SARP, we sure as hell are now. The horse people previously received approx. $172 million per year and now we are reduced to $180 million over three years. ($60 million average) Also the gov't is now proposing a NEW organization to govern us, the OLR whose members will be appointed by them with no input from us. I predict that there will be a mass exodus of horses and horse people out of Ontario who will race in jurisdictions that are far more lucrative. In time, the gov't will then say that horse racing is no longer a viable industry in Ontario and subsequently, pull the plug. Furthermore, as budgets become tighter, we will be the first in line for cuts as we are not an essential service. This is only a MASTER PLAN for destruction and we are now totally at the mercy of gov't for handouts. But we also have to take some responsibility for our situation. We became too comfortable as an industry and didn't promote ourselves and horse racing enough. We allowed the gov't to steal our customer base with the slots and now we are allowing the gov't to hold all the aces in the deck again, as a subsidized industry.
I have always said....... that when you are dealing with gov't, it is not a question of IF you are going to get screwed over but rather a question of WHEN.

And the unkindest cut of all will be yet another Government body, created to give the panel members jobs for life as well as any number of Liberal cheerleaders. How much will it take to run this additional level of beauraucracy called the OLR (Old Liberal Retirement)?

The standardbred industry has just been thrown out of Toronto (Woodbine) - the centre of racing in Canada - the monetary centre of this country. Without racing involvement in the financial capital of Canada, we will slowly dwindle away to a shadow of our past.

The thoroughbred community must truly be celebrating tonight. The champagne flowing superfluously and not just cheap Dom Perignon - but this time bring out the real quality - ‘Crystal’ - for a true victory party. Vanquished are those jugheads finally to the periphery of the economy where they can slowly go to their graves. And take your tens of thousands of service people with you as well. ‘Be Gone, Good Riddance to you all!’

A special thank you to government for confirming in my mind that ultimately only money talks and how corrupt our society has become. The financially powerful in this province have been given everything they wanted. The thoroughbreds getting ‘all the handle’ now from Woodbine and the government doubling the tally to boot. The purses won’t diminish there now will they? By George, they may even increase! It will be a wonderful Queen’s Plate 2013 for our provincial (and national) elite!

Not so wonderful outside of Toronto.

We need the NDP to show some dignity and get rid of the liberals and the report from the 3 wise men. Is any one surprised?

The Ontario racing plan surely is designed to create the demise all who are honest and good in rural Ontario. Rulings are nothing but wasted words for the sake of saving their political hides in the disguise of saving the program.

In reply to by travelinman4

Its about time.

FAR too many nights all summer long where the purses are 5 to 10 times the horseman's share of the handle.

Mr Travis, the demise in the sport was long long long time ago. Remember the day before the slots came and you were racing for AVG $2000 a race at most tracks on a daily basis? Slots was your bailout and a chance to improve the game. Nothing was done, now, they are saying "you better figure something out".

This is a great day for horse racing.

Hopefully this is the wake up call that corrals you all into a room and say, "wow, there is more of us here talking about this, than we have had watching our races all year long, how do we get fans to see what we have"

In reply to by Will Yamakva

Slots might of been our bailout for industry but it also was a in for the government to legalize more gambling and letting the slots get a foot hold. Before that the public did not want slots so it was a win win for everyone. I agree we needed to make approvements but not sending us to slaughter.

Another shift to the same garble. The OLG jumped on the back of horse tracks shoved slots down there throats, told everyone it would be good stole the customers, made a deal to racetracks called it a partnership. Now its a subsidy. Horsemen now has to find new customers for the ones the OLG stole
Now we have to subsidise breeders who was striving, growing jobs, all on the money they were making through horse sales, breeding, racing . Wayne Gretzky couldn't hold a candle with this stick work

Based on the length of this, its obvious that a lot of work was expended to produce it.

WOW!!!!!!! 5 tracks, Mohawk, Flamboro, Georgian, Western Fair and Grand River. Racing on a circuit schedule.
Ottawa your on your own, good luck to you.
Fairs are okay to do at the unsustainable tracks.
Woodbine, the most lucrative venue, must not be used for standard bred racing. Welcome back to the 1950s people. Without the lack of competition from other forms of gaming.

Please give more money to the breeding industry, 30 million is not enough to produce horses to sell into this VERY lucrative marketplace for racing. The slaughter houses will get very tender morsels for their customers.

SARP destroyed it all, just ask the transition panel and the Liberals that appointed them. Who constructed such a destructive program that made 1.5 billion a year and supplied $170,000,000 for horse racing purses. Competition for this money supplied a 2 billion dollar industry with about 55,000 workers (panel says 24,000, only a 31,000 difference).

This transition model will certainly be better than that, and create a vibrant sustainable industry for years to come. I mean it is only STARTING with a 50 million dollar subsidy. What more could you want. Can you smell the success.

A new day has dawned for Standard bred horses in Ontario.

Gotta read this again.....but it appears to me Eastern Ontario's is getting the shaft?

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