On Thursday, August 22, the Ontario Harness Horse Association issued a press release in regard to the Great Canadian Gaming Corp.’s announcement that an age restriction will be in effect at Flamboro Downs starting in early September.
In its announcement earlier this week, a statement from Great Canadian included the following: "Flamboro Downs will become a 19+ entertainment destination on Tuesday, September 3, 2019. All ages are still welcome to enjoy live racing on the tarmac and will have access to washroom facilities."
Trot Insider reached out to the Central Ontario Standardbred Association, Ontario Racing and Flamboro Downs for comment on the OHHA release. Ontario Racing has provided a statement to Trot Insider. Official comment from Flamboro and COSA were not received by press time.
The contents of the OHHA release appear below, followed by Ontario Racing’s statement.
OHHA PRESS RELEASE
The recent announcement by Great Canadian Gaming to ban children from the grandstand and clubhouse areas of the racetrack and force them to watch racing outside during the winter months is a clear indication of the company’s lack of concern for or interest in advancing the racing industry. It is just another nail in the coffin for this important agricultural industry of horse breeding, training and racing. While every other major-league sport is making concerted efforts to engage a new generation of fans, this announcement makes it clear that Flamboro Downs and its parent company have no concern about the future of racing and are not prepared to assist the industry in recovering from the devastation that happened as a result of the end of the Slots At Racetracks Program (SARP). According to the last financial information available to us Flamboro Downs already had one of the lowest on-track handles in the province and keeping families away will only exacerbate that problem.
The Ontario Harness Horse Association (OHHA) is opposed to this unilateral decision to eliminate children from the racing facilities and is working diligently to try to alter that decision. OHHA has not signed the long-term funding deal because of a number of substantial flaws in the agreement, including the uncertainty of any racetrack’s requirement to race at all in the future, a requirement that was in the cancelled agreement that oversaw SARP. Unfortunately, other horsepeople’s groups have signed the agreement and became members of Ontario Racing and now racetracks are free to eliminate racing and make decisions like banning children with no recourse for the participants of the industry.
Ironically, the signature racetracks in Ontario are represented on the Ontario Racing Board by Bruce Barbour who represents Great Canadian Gaming. Great Canadian Gaming is also the operator of the two Woodbine Entertainment Group based casinos. Ontario Racing and Ontario Racing Management, a wholly owned subsidiary of Woodbine Entertainment Group, are responsible for managing the racing industry under the long-term funding agreement. Ontario Racing is also the organization that made the determination recently to eliminate funding for OHHA.
OHHA has initiated talks with Members of the Federal and Provincial Governments – something that we could not do if we agreed to the long-term funding deal – to express our concerns and we encourage you to contact your local Member of Provincial and Federal Governments to share your concerns as well.
If you require assistance in identifying or finding contact information for your local MP or MPP please call the OHHA office and we will provide that information.
You can contact the office by phone at 905-854-6442 or e-mail [email protected]
ONTARIO RACING STATEMENT
Horse racing fans of all ages have enjoyed the sport and its thrilling live venue experience in the province for decades. We encourage racing organizations to continue to embrace and nurture horse racing fans by broadening the sport’s appeal and focusing on growing the fan base. In support of that goal, only racetracks that offer live racing qualify for funding under the Long-Term Funding Agreement.
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