04/26/2012 12:31PM

Ontario budget passes, racetrack slots program will end next year

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Tuesday’s passage of the Liberal Government’s Ontario 2012 budget confirmed the end of the racetrack slots program operated by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation as of March 31, 2013.

The slots operations at three racetracks – Fort Erie, Windsor Raceway, and Hiawatha Horse Park – are scheduled to be shut down this coming Monday.

Woodbine and the province’s other 13 racetracks will continue to operate under the current terms, which allocate 10 percent of the net profit from the machines to the racetracks and 10 percent to the horsemen for purses.

And while there has been a promise of “transitional funding” to help the province’s racetracks cope with the loss of revenue, the nature of that funding has not been defined.

“I have been able to confirm that there is transition money,” said Sue Leslie, president of the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association, which has spearheaded the battle against the government’s decision to end the slots program. “We don’t have the specifics on it, and I don’t want to guess. We will be sitting down to talk with the province about it, probably within the next couple of weeks.

“It’s still not going to address the sustainability issue, which is our point.”

The Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association has stressed the fact that 60,000 jobs in Ontario are dependent on the racing industry.