The final consultation session in regard to the draft plan for the future of Ontario horse racing took place Thursday, July 11 at Rideau Carleton Raceway.
The draft plan has been the central topic of discussion in the provincial industry since it was released in late June.
The four consultation sessions covered the major areas of concern for those in the industry — grassroots racing, governance, the customer, marketing, frameworks, breeding, new revenue sources, and growing handle, just to name a few.
In addition to the members of the horse-racing transition panel, one individual that was front and centre in all of the sessions was Rod Phillips, the chief executive officer of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.
Along with transition panel member John Snobelen, Phillips addressed the crowd at the beginning of each session. Although his words varying slightly from meeting to meeting, Phillips took the opportunity to make it clear that the OLG has made a commitment to integrate the horse-racing industry into the OLG’s gaming modernization plans.
“We (the OLG) are committed to being active participants,” Phillips said while helping to kick off the Thursday session. “The idea of integration and working together is something that we are going to be working on, and have been working on now with the panel and with the industry.”
Just as transition panel member Elmer Buchanan hammered home Wednesday in Ajax, Phillips said that the OLG will be focusing on the customer in its plans to bring horse racing into the provincial gaming strategy going forward.
“Something that makes it very easy for us to become a partner in this initiative is the same idea that the panel has been speaking about: the importance of the customer.”
Phillips stressed that standing pat is not an option at the OLG right now. “When we look at our own industry and our own business, we need to transform it so it can continue to be successful. The No. 1 thing we are looking at is the customer… our lottery business has eight million customers — eight million individual Ontarians — that play the lottery every year. This facility (Rideau Carleton Raceway) has tens of millions of customers that come through the doors, but we have challenges associated with the customer. We have spent a lot of time learning about that customer.
“One of the things that have been very exciting is getting to learn about the horse-racing customer and the types of customer connection that we can make, particularly for some of the products that we have that are a little bit more like horse bets — things like our poker player and those types of customers. So that focus on the customer is something that we understand and something that the panel has really put in front of us. I will sit at the wagering table when we have our roundtables. I have been learning a little bit about the horse-racing wagering aspect.”