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NHA Wants Post-SAR Racino In Northern Ont.

Published: July 19, 2012 4:46 pm ET

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The Northern Horsemen’s Association (NHA) met today with Monte McNaughton PC MPP (Lambton, Kent, Middlesex) at the Robertson Training Centre in Chelmsford, Ont.

McNaughton has been an advocate for the horse racing and breeding industry speaking out against Premier McGuinty and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming’s (OLG) abrupt and unilateral decision to end the highly successful slots-at-racetracks agreement.

Last month, McNaughton released a statement saying, “I have travelled across Ontario visiting racetracks and meeting with track owners, farmers, horsemen and local leaders. There is great potential for this industry to flourish, but our Premier, Dalton McGuinty, has pulled the rug out from underneath the feet of the people in the horseracing industry and left 60,000 men, women and small business owners with no options and no future.”

The Northern Horsemen Association’s position is clear stating that sustaining the 30+ year history of horse racing in Northern Ontario has an extensive effect on the economic and social impacts to Sudbury and its rural counterparts. In terms of agriculture-related service businesses and job creation, horse racing in Northern Ontario is responsible for over 500 jobs and contributes over $10 million annually into Sudbury’s economy.

While the government announced in June of this year, transitional funding of $50 million over three years to the industry as a whole and have since formed a panel to research, review and evaluate stakeholders positions in light of the termination of the slots-at-racetracks agreement backlash, it is the hope of the NHA that this panel will fairly evaluate the role of Northern Ontario as a potential location for a “RACINO” type model going forward in their recommendation to government at the end of August 2012.

The recent abdication by the OLG from the slots-at-racetracks program and its current, although not fully announced, agenda to redesign gambling venues and bingo halls across Ontario with a 'push' towards Downtown Casinos is leaving racetrack operators and the racing/breeding industry at an incredible crossroads for decision making and future planning.

Coincidently, with the termination of this partnership between government, horsemen and racetrack owners, the Liberals and the OLG have entered into a less rewarding partnership with charity bingo-hall owners across Ontario whom are now housing slot-like machines in the form of VLTs (Video Lottery Terminals). According to an article printed by the Peterborough Examiner on June 13, 2012, OLG Spokesman Tony Bitonti was quoted, “in regard to the revenue structure, which has been termed 'Net Win.' Net Win will see revenues from bingo halls spilt four ways: the bingo hall operators will retain 47 per cent of the revenues; the OLG will scoop up 25 per cent; local charities will get 25 per cent, and the host municipality will get three per cent.”

Under the current slots-at-racetracks program, which the Ontario Liberals inexplicably want to scrap, the province retains 75 per cent of the revenue derived from alternative gaming parlours housed within racetracks. The host racetracks receive 10 per cent of the revenue and the host municipalities receive five per cent. The horse racing industry then receives the last 10 per cent --- which, in turn, creates $2-billion in annual economic impact; employs up to 60,000 Ontarians; is part of $261-million in annual monies for the province; attracts foreign investment and helps fund Ontario's healthcare and education programs. The slots-at-racetracks program is one of the best, proven and highly successful public/private partnerships government has ever entered into, one that has been modeled in other countries to sustain growth and development in rural-agricultural areas while providing significant employment opportunities.

“We are hoping that the vocal presence and persistence of MPPs like Mr. McNaughton speaking out on behalf of a thriving industry will bring light to exactly how important an issue it is to sustain the rural agricultural-service businesses the horse racing industry supports and the numerous jobs that go hand-in-hand with it, specifically in Northern Ontario and all of Ontario,” says Dr. Karen Pappin, consultant mediator to the NHA. “We are grateful that he has travelled this way to acknowledge Northern Ontario’s role and importance in supporting our community, our horse racing people and northern agriculture.”


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