Scot Urquhart from CHCH news conducted an interview with Standardbred Breeder Guy Polillo. The interview and newscast can be seen below.
A group of 35 Ontario horse breeders is putting its money where its mouth is. The breeders have filed a lawsuit against the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and say they’re betting the OLG hasn’t been honest with them. With drastic cuts to subsidies — and massive changes in the horse racing industry the breeders say, they’re going broke. And while they say the government has a right to change its mind about the subsidy program — it shouldn’t be able to take away their livelihood — without fair warning, and compensation.
These, are the last vestiges of a 40 year career. A handful of yearlings that Guy Polillo says, cost more than their worth. “Nobody’ll buy them! Nobody wants them!”
The reason — he says — is the collapse of the Ontario horse racing industry. Once supported by casino slot machine revenue from racetracks across the province — the industry was profitable, and brought in billions for the government. No more.
Guy says. “That’s what the government does. When things go good, they gotta screw it up.”
Polillo is one of a group of 35 breeders — who have launched a 65 million dollar lawsuit against the Ontario government, and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. For two years — he says — breeders have been trying to negotiate a settlement package to offset the massive losses, faced by breeders. “I was breakin’ even before, now I’m losin’ every year. (When you say you’re losing; how much are you losing?). Hundred thou’. (A year?). Yep. Hundred-fifty, Seventy-five. Depends on what the yearlings bring in the sale.”
And with no demand for new race horses, in an industry that is undergoing massive downsizing — Polillo has cleared out his stable. He used to have eight brood mares — now he has one. “You either kill them – bury them – and I don’t want to do that, or you find ‘em a new home. The other day I gave one away that I paid $27,000 U.S. for. I just gave it to a guy for a new home.”
The OLG won’t comment on the suit — yet. But they say the horse racing industry received nearly three and a half billion dollars over the ten-year tenure of the slots and trots program. Polillo says — the industry may have received millions — but the breeders didn’t. “The only way we make money is when we sell the yearlings.”
And so — reluctantly he says — the breeders will put their faith, in the Justice system. “We’re gonna trust the courts. Because we don’t trust the government. They don’t wanna negotiate. They don’t wanna do nothin’.”
Although Premier Kathleen Wynne — who is also the minister for agriculture — refused to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday, she has said in the past that she believes Dalton McGuinty’s decision to end the racetrack program was wrong. But with an election coming, and the Liberals needing all of the support from rural voters they can get, it may be that the courts will never get a chance to decide, whether the breeders are right.