Ontario Liberal Government Axed Slots At Racetracks Program Before Impact Study Received, Say MPPs Arnott and Pettapiece

(Perth-Wellington) – A newly released document reveals that Premier Dalton McGuinty’s government had already made up its mind to kill the horse-racing industry, even before it received an economic analysis.

That document, released today by MPPs Ted Arnott (Wellington-Halton Hills) and Randy Pettapiece (Perth-Wellington), offered confidential advice to cabinet on the economic impact of ending the Slots at Racetracks Program. That report is dated March 14, 2012 – two days after Finance Minister Dwight Duncan announced he was ending the partnership between the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and the province’s racetracks.

“This report exposes the sheer arrogance of this Liberal government toward the horse-racing industry – not to mention the thousands of people whose jobs are on the line,” said Pettapiece. “It’s as if they just cooked up this report after the fact to try to defend this decision they had already made.”

Arnott agreed, while questioning the legitimacy of the report’s findings: “To the extent that they studied the economic impact, it was superficial and flawed in many respects. Their numbers are highly questionable, and likely won’t hold up under scrutiny.”

He added: “It looks like it was done on the back of a napkin.” Removal of the Slots at Racetracks program would, according to the report, result in job losses of between 3,500 and 5,800 annually.

“The report dramatically understates the potential job losses, completely overlooking the true economic spin-offs the equine industry creates throughout rural Ontario,” Arnott observed. The Liberals’ own 2004 provincial budget backs up Arnott’s contention. That budget boasted that the Slots at Racetracks program had preserved and enhanced over 60,000 jobs, providing over $1.1 billion to the province’s agricultural sector since 1998.

Pettapiece and Arnott also noted the report’s finding that 11 of the 17 racetracks now operating across the province could shut down: “Which ones will close, and why won’t they say?” asked Arnott.

In June, the province announced its three-member transition panel on the future of the industry. Pettapiece and Arnott are calling on the panel to support those in horse racing who stand to lose their jobs. They are urging the panel to push back on the Minister of Finance.

The panel’s recommendations are expected on August 17.

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