Sue Leslie, President of the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA), issued the following statement regarding the departure of Paul Godfrey and the OLG Board of Directors.
“Ontario’s horse racing and breeding industry has been reeling since March 2012 when the Government of Ontario announced the cancellation of the Slots at Racetracks Program. Our industry’s concerns were compounded by what we perceived to be process failures on the part of the OLG Board to ensure our industry had a role to play in their modernization plan.
“Under Premier Wynne, our industry has seen the start of a number of positive steps, including the government’s announcement that horse racing will become an integrated partner in the government’s future gaming strategy.
“We have welcomed these changes, and with the departure of the OLG board that designed the province’s modernization strategy, we believe there is a real opportunity for Premier Wynne to develop a new strategy that engages Ontario’s horse racing and breeding sector, brings communities into the decision making process, and creates an approach to gaming modernization that is more palatable to everyone.
“The horse racing industry believes that Premier Wynne has an opportunity to formally pause the OLG’s current modernization process, including the RFPQs underway in Sudbury, Peterborough and Ottawa, to ensure the OLG does not make any decisions regarding gaming zones where racetracks currently exist.
“The horse racing and breeding industry is ready to work with the Premier to develop a program that substantially increases government revenues and ensures the sustainability of horse racing and breeding in Ontario.”
Sue Leslie had the opportunity to meet personally with Premier Wynne at the end of April to discuss Ontario’s horse racing and breeding sector, “Premier Wynne’s actions indicate that she will continue to make good on the commitments she made during that meeting to the horse racing and breeding industry in Ontario.”
On Thursday, Leslie recorded an audio interview with Norm Borg providing an update on the OLG re-integration of horse racing with the province’s land-based gaming strategy.
“I think there is cause for optimism,” stated Leslie. “Everyone is cautious and certainly so am I but the meeting was I thought very frank, very direct. She asked, I think, very appropriate questions that probed in the right areas. I certainly minced no words with her in terms of the condition that the Liberal government’s decision has left our industry in and that immediate action was required in order to attempt to start remedying it. She has been very responsive to that, she made some commitments to me that day and since then has fulfilled those commitments.”
Leslie’s main objective with the discussion was to reinforce the dire and desperate of Ontario’s once-thriving horse racing and breeding industry.
“We’re sitting on the edge of a cliff and we don’t have months and months – particularly into 2014 – to get some assurance and some sustainability plan in place that will allow the industry to have some confidence that there’s going to be a future.”