Ontario, April 29, 2014 – A group of standardbred breeders from across the province who have sued Ontario and OLG welcomed the special report of the Auditor General released yesterday afternoon.
“The Auditor General’s report confirms everything we have said in our claims against Ontario and OLG,” said Walter Parkinson of Seelster Farms, a standardbred breeding operation based in Lucan, Ontario and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuits.
Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk affirmed what horse breeders across the province already knew: that the decision to cancel the Slots revenue-sharing partnership was “abrupt” and “can hardly be considered to have been open and transparent.” The report cites figures indicating that 9,000 jobs located “primarily in rural Ontario” have been lost, and that breeders’ activities have “dropped by about 60%”. The report also confirmed that Ontario and OLG’s modernization program vastly overstated anticipated revenue and job creation.
This devastating impact could have been avoided. The Auditor General says that Ontario and OLG were “fully aware” that cancelling the revenue sharing arrangement “would have a significant negative impact on the horse-racing industry,” and that the negative impact would disproportionally fall on “rural communities where horse people (horse owners, trainers and breeders) live and work,” particularly in the standardbred sector.
The report also concludes that Ontario and OLG failed to properly consult with the horse racing industry prior to the termination of the slots revenue sharing partnership. The Auditor General confirmed that “at no time” during the strategic review that culminated in the decision to terminate the program was the possibility of termination even discussed with industry stakeholders.
Despite the Auditor General’s observation that racetrack owners have been “less affected by the ending of the Slots at Racetracks Program,” OLG has paid out more that $80.6 million dollars to racetracks, and are paying an additional $113 million per year to racetracks where slot machines continue to be located. But the Liberal government has refused to pay a single dollar to standardbred breeders, even though they have suffered the greatest harm from the termination and have the least ability to recover. “I guess this government just isn’t interested in compensating people in rural Ontario because our vote isn’t important to it,” said Parkinson.
Walter Parkinson can be reached for comment at 519-227-4294 or email@example.com