According to releases sent out by both the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Woodbine Entertainment Group, a deal has been reached between the two parties pertaining to live racing at Woodbine Racetrack and Mohawk Racetrack.
A release from OMAFRA states, “Ontario is another step closer to a sustainable horse racing industry after reaching an agreement in principle to provide transition funding to the province’s largest provider of horse racing.”
The agreement with Woodbine Entertainment Group will ensure races continue at the Woodbine and Mohawk tracks as the industry adapts to a more sustainable model. Agreements with additional racetracks are anticipated to be reached in the coming weeks.
No details on the arrangement were released.
In order to receive transition funding, racetracks will have to meet accountability and transparency requirements. Providing a number of racetracks with transition funding is part of the government’s horse racing industry transition plan, which includes:
- Continuing the Horse Improvement Program
- Providing animal welfare supports.
- Transferring responsibility for the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
Helping the horse racing industry transition to a more sustainable model is part of the McGuinty government’s plan to ensure increased accountability for the use of public funds.
To date, 10 racetracks have reached lease agreements in principle with OLG for its slots facilities. Additional agreements with tracks are to be announced in the coming weeks.
The Ontario Racing Commission will work with racetracks to provide a revised 2013 racing calendar as agreements are finalized.
“This agreement points to a renewed future for horse racing in Ontario. We look forward to working with additional racetracks towards the further development of a new model for a sustainable industry,” said Ted McMeekin, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
“The transition funding provides much needed stability for the industry. We are pleased with the government’s commitment to ensure the long-term viability of horse racing and breeding which has a proud heritage in Ontario,” said Nick Eaves, CEO of Woodbine Entertainment Group. “We look forward to working in partnership with government as we discuss the long term future of a sustainable horse racing industry.”
According to WEG, the deal ensures the continuation of live horse racing at Woodbine and Mohawk Racetracks for the next two years.
“This long-awaited agreement offers stability while WEG and our partners in horse racing work with government towards a long-term sustainability solution,” said Jim Lawson, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Woodbine Entertainment Group. “It’s clear to us that this is only a short-term fix, and sustainability can only be achieved by the integration of horse racing into the province’s gaming strategy. As the largest operator of horse racing in Canada, WEG is committed to working with the government to achieve this critical outcome.”
Lawson noted that horse racing has a long and important history in Ontario, and that in recent years the industry has established a business model – and a level of racing excellence – recognized the world over. “Our challenge is to now build a new, sustainable model for horse racing in Ontario that continues to set the standard internationally. I’m confident that working with our partners in industry and government, we can achieve that goal. Our industry deserves nothing less.”