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Will Sadinsky's Plan Be Endorsed?

Published: June 4, 2012 8:54 pm ET

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"Right now we're in the 12th round and we're on one knee. We as an industry, hopefully, have matured to the point where we will accept change."

On today's episode of Trot Radio, host Norm Borg goes one-on-one with Western Fair District CEO Hugh Mitchell. Part of the recently-formed OHRIA Task Force, Mitchell goes into more detail on how the board made the decision to bring on Stan Sadinsky to construct a plan that will effectively represent a model for a redeveloped horse racing industry in Ontario. Sadinsky did something similar four years ago, and that plan was abandoned categorically. Mitchell feels that due to the circumstances that racing faces in 2012, people will view this plan with a different perspective.

"Back in 2008 or 2009 when his [first] report came out, we were still trucking on with 20 per cent of the net win coming to the racing industry with our racetrack-slot program. I mean there was no real incentive, frankly, for change because we were all doing reasonably well. Today, that's different. The racetrack slot program is over in less than a year. So I think the willingness of the industry to accept some new model has dramatically changed today from four or five years ago."

With that said, Mitchell elaborated on the need for this process to have an external advisor as opposed to a plan constructed by the OHRIA board.

"Here's the issue for OHRIA; they represent all the stakeholders in the industry - breeders, horsepeople, racetracks - and different breeds. For them to try to create some consensus around some huge, monumental adjustments in the model for racing in this province is extremely difficult because those who sit on that board are representing their constituents and they can't - very comfortably - be judge and jury on significant changes that negatively impact their constituents. It's difficult for OHRIA, who I'm very supportive of, to champion monumental change. They've struck a task force to be as objective as possible, to present a model that has some element of sustainability but for sure it will be a different model than we see today. "

Having just concluded the 2012 Winter meet at Western Fair, with strong gains on the wagering side, Mitchell gives credit to his managers of racing - Ian Fleming and Greg Blanchard - for carding competitive races and aggressively selling the product to the North American audience. On the downside, Mitchell doesn't feel the double-digit gains are sustainable and cites these gains as a "cannibalization" from other tracks as opposed to bringing in new money.

"I'm pretty sure the pari-mutuel pie across North America is not growing," concluded Mitchell. "What's happening is there's a shifting in wagering from various jurisdictions to another."

Further to that point, Mitchell feels that there's an "oversaturation" of racing for the customer in North America, and given the difference in the product with respect its availability online and through simulcast wagering there's a need for a new distribution model that hasn't "adapted or adjusted" to racing today.

To hear more on Mitchell's view on these topics as well as what works and didn't at the 2012 Molson Pace, click the play button below.

Episode 264 – Hugh Mitchell, Chief Executive Officer, Western Fair District
Audio Format: MP3 audio
Host: Norm Borg

Please note that the opinions expressed in the featured interview are those of the participants and do not necessarily reflect Rideau Carleton Raceway and/or Standardbred Canada.

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