Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak presented a White Paper on agriculture and rural Ontario in Guelph, ON on Thursday, March 14th and singled out the horse racing community.
As part of his presentation, Hudak outlined what he titled a “Better Path Forward For Horse Racing”. Hudak said the Liberal government should cancel plans to “abandon racetrack slots and spend money on new casinos.” The PCs would, he said, build relationships and partnerships with horse racing, “allowing it to thrive.”
Hudak’s vision for horse racing appears below:
A Better Path Forward For Horse Racing
PATH 15 – Horse racing must be a key component of Ontario’s gaming strategy. The government should cancel the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation plan to abandon racetrack slots and spend money on new casinos.
Instead, we will build partnerships with the horse racing industry, allowing it to thrive. The horse racing industry is an essential component of Ontario’s rural economy. It employs 60,000 men and women, giving them work they love, and helping to sustain towns and rural communities across the province.
Horse racing is simply an irreplaceable part of rural life, but all the good it creates has been threatened by an ill-considered government policy that will leave a much smaller industry with an uncertain future, if it has any future at all.
People across rural Ontario are rightly concerned about the current government’s decision to end the slots at racetracks plan that has been in place since 1998, pushing aside rural Ontarians in favour of big international casino corporations.
The current government has wrongly portrayed the program as a subsidy to horse racing. In fact, it is an economic development partnership that sees 75 per cent of the profits from the slots go to the province, 10 per cent to horsemen, 10 per cent to racetrack operators and five per cent to local municipalities. It is a plan that has worked well for the government and for the horse racing industry. The government has created temporary deals with some tracks, essentially to pay a bit of rent to house the slots and keep some money flowing while it works on its big casino expansion plan. But that doesn’t give the horse racing industry any certainty.
There is a better way. The Ontario PC Caucus has proposed alternatives that would save thousands of jobs and revitalize a job-creating sector of our economy. Our critic for Economic Development Monte McNaughton has undertaken an extensive province-wide consultation with the horse racing and casino industries to look at long-term, sustainable alternatives to the current gaming strategy.
So far, we have heard overwhelmingly positive feedback on a proposal put forward in a previous discussion paper, Paths to Prosperity: A New Deal for the Public Sector, to give racetrack operators an opportunity to buy existing slots operations at fair market value, which could save their industry while still providing a good return to taxpayers.
We need to shelve the OLG’s empire building plan to open up 29 new casinos. If we decide to expand gaming option, then why not build off of what is already working and successful in welcoming communities? This would provide the certainty necessary to make investments and create jobs in Ontario. We will strengthen partnerships with the job-creating horse racing industry, not tear them apart. It’s what rural Ontario, the horse racing industry and thousands of dedicated workers deserve.
OHRIA issued the following response to the PC Party’s statement of support for the Horse racing:
The Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association is pleased with the Ontario PC Agriculture Path to Prosperity document that discusses the PC plan for Ontario’s horse racing and breeding industry. OHRIA would like to thank Monte McNaughton and Tim Hudak for working closely with OHRIA on their gaming and horse racing policies. We believe their policy ideas are an important contribution to the discussion of our industry’s future.
“We have been working with the opposition parties to find a policy that they can endorse and we are happy to see Ontario’s PCs show their support for Ontario’s horse racing and breeding industry.” Said Sue Leslie, President of OHRIA. “We agree that it only makes sense for the province to work with the horse racing industry to expand gaming. We are by far the most lucrative partner the OLG has ever had, and anything that hurts horse racing’s contribution to the province, will surely hurt the province’s economy.”
The Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association is committed to working with all parties in Ontario’s Legislature to ensure the horse racing and breeding industry can recover from the damage the industry has faced since the cancellation of the Slots at Racetracks Program.
“SARP ends on March 31, just two weeks from now and our industry continues to be in serious jeopardy. Until a long term, sustainable revenue sharing agreement with the government is in place, there will not be any investment in our industry and thousands of jobs will continue to be lost. Horse racing needs to play a prominent role in any gaming strategy in order for our industry to survive and to continue playing the important economic role it does in rural Ontario.” Leslie added.
OHRIA is working with the province of Ontario and the OLG to integrate horse racing into the province’s gaming modernization strategy, and is firmly committed to ensuring horse racing and breeding are protected during any expansion of the province’s gaming strategy.