06/07/2012 12:42PM

Ontario government to provide $50 million in transitional funds to tracks losing slots


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – The Ontario Government announced Thursday that it will provide up to $50 million for three years of transitional funding to help the province’s racetracks cope with the loss of slot machine revenue.

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, which oversees the slots programs at Ontario’s 17 racetracks, announced this spring that the 20 percent of slots revenue which had been split between racetracks and horsemen would be phased out on March 31, 2013.

Three Ontario border racetracks – Fort Erie, Windsor Raceway, and Hiawatha Horse Park – had their slot machines removed by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation on April 30. Fort Erie announced earlier this week that it would close permanently on Dec. 31.

The exact nature and extent of the transitional funding will not be known until late this summer and will follow consultations between the industry and three former provincial cabinet ministers – Elmer Buchanan, John Snobelen, and John Wilkinson.

The government also announced that Employment Ontario will help displaced workers find jobs and training.

“We’re happy there’s a panel, but we’re really not happy about the word ‘transition’”, said Sue Leslie, president of the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association. “That’s not the avenue that OHRIA wants to go down.

"This industry is going to die, unless we can establish a plan for sustainability. It’s going to be up to us, and our task force, to change the panel’s mandate."

The Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association recently announced the creation of a task force which will be chaired by Stanley Sadinsky, a lawyer and former chairman of the Ontario Racing Commission. The task force will report to the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association by the end of June.

“The breeding industry, in particular, is feeling the immediate impact of the uncertainties regarding industry programs that are designed to promote the breeding and sale of Ontario racehorses,” said Leslie.