06/07/2012 1:42PM

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.

Lois Keays More than 1 year ago
Mr. Tallon, Please show me where in the Government Release there is reference to Race Tracks receiving the transitional funding. As this is an OMAFRA program my interpretation indicates the funding will be allocated to those who have agricultural investment in farms and bloodstock. I think your headline is misleading and inaccurate.
Robin Dawson More than 1 year ago
Lois....for too long the tail has been wagging the dog. Owners and Breeders should NOT be funded or have any input into the direction of horse racing...its their choice to own racehorses, not a devine right that, over the past 15 years, has been subsidized by the Ontario Government. Those involved with racing, who choose to buy racehorses, should appreciate the risks and sink or swim accordingly. After all, some people like sailing...but they don't expect federal assistance in maintaining their craft that, unlike racehorses, do not (sometimes) return dividends. This $50 million should be spent on making the sport more accessible and interesting for fans...so attendance and handle will increase, which will generate the revenue and media interest needed to sustain operations. Its obvious!
Lois Keays More than 1 year ago
Robin- While I appreciate your opinion, my comment was directed at the innaccuracy of the headline. The Provincial Government has not specified allocation of transitional funding to race tracks. Perhaps the government feels that the $2 Billion already received by Race Track Management and Owners represents a more than adequate share of Revenue?
Robin Dawson More than 1 year ago
Absolutely...I have articles from The Toronto Star, back in 1995, by Jack Lakey and dear old Jim Proudfoot (bless him) that clearly state that revenue from slot machines was supposed to encourage breeders, bring in new owners and increase the overall profile of horse racing, which in turn would increase attendance, handle and media coverage. None of this has happened. So, yes..I do feel that Dwight Duncan and his mates think that racing has had its cake, eaten it and now doesn't deserve any more.
Lois Keays More than 1 year ago
Robin - You have indicated in a post below that you would make your Plan available. I would appreciate receipt as an educational resource. loiskeays@msn.com Thank You.
RailbirdPete More than 1 year ago
Robin... Give us your 5 minutes and let's hear how you can revitalize the horse racing business. You say subsidies...It was a business partnership..The tracks gave the Ont Lottery Corp space (building and parking) and access to their market...In return they received payment of 10%...Not unreasonable... Yes the tracks are not blameless...Fort Erie had an absentee owner corporation until the current Non for Profit group took over 2 years ago. There was limited marketing towards a new generation of racegoers under the previous regime...They bled the track dry. The new NFP group hasn't had a chance....The Fort Erie Race track is scheduled to run its last race Oct 30th this year after 115 years. Our provincial (mis)government pulled the financial rug out without offering consultation or the small tracks a chance to prepare a survival plan. There was some complaisance non urgency previously that the new NFP group was trying to address.
Robin Dawson More than 1 year ago
First, may I say that those in charge of racing in Ontario are deluded if they believe that the Ontario Government owes them. They owe them nothing and nor should public funds be wasted, for one more minute, on a sport that is so badly run. Now..re fixing this problem: For the last 17 years, since the days of Racing with Magee, a radio program that Michael Magee and I hosted (which won an Eclipse Award in 1996) I have unsuccessfully lobbied Woodbine, re working out a deal with OLG to present betting via the 8700 outlets that they have throughout the Province...similar to the PMU in France. Backed up by an English-style tabloid presentation that featured interactive wagers and Quinte-style weekend bets, horse racing would very quickly attract lottery players. My plan..called 'Real Racing'...with the slogan ' Horse racing is Real Racing' was summarily rejected by David Willmot and his minions (one of whom didn't even know that there used to be another track in Toronto, called Greenwood!!!). If you want a copy...send me your e-mail address and I'll send it to you. BTW...I offered the same concept to the US Jockey Club...but they preferred ' America's Greatest Races ' and think they can promote the sport on the back of one horse...I'll have Another. So you can see, WEG are not alone in their ignorance.
Scott More than 1 year ago
this is not a withdraewl of money just a redistrupiton of where it goes all those slot machines will be replaced by pivate casinos with slot parlours and the money instead of going to the province and the racetrack the money will now go between the city and the province. The slots havve been great for racing for example the 7500 maiden claimers at fort erie are racing for a purse of nearly 12000 dollars before slots it was under 6000 this higher purses causes much more claiming cause you just have to win one race or two races to get your claim money back at mountaineer the 4000 claimers go for over 10000! one win and you are ahead of the game much easier to reinvest your money as well
Tom More than 1 year ago
Robin Dawson More than 1 year ago
Reading this, you realize just how little Sue Leslie and those in charge of running horse racing in Ontario know about the sport. Indeed, its shameful that, after 15 years of subsidies, the situation is actually worse than before slots were introduced, and, apart from continued reliance upon them, nobody has an alternative more creative plan. Give me 5 minutes, and I'll show exactly how this can fixed and how, by using the sport of horse racing as the vehicle, its longterm survival would be guaranteed.
Ian Broomfield More than 1 year ago
I hate to burst your bubble Robin, but the reason Ft Erie can't make it alone anymore on their handle only is twofold really. Firstly,,,,when 911 happened and the border requirements were put in place by homeland security it was the death of racing there. People wouldn't put up with passports, searches and so on. Secondly,,,,,why would you expect Americans (or Canadians for that matter) to patronize a slot casino where the cost of a simple beer is $5.50 and you aren't allowed to smoke yet we can go right over the border to Seneca and drinks are free and you can smoke right at the table or slot machine. We can't compete with that now can we. I think it is unfair that the border tracks suffer and lose the machines they did have without say Mohawk and Woodbine losing theirs. To me that wasn't fair. Myself, I am packing uo my horses and equipment and heading to Vancouver where the handle just went UP 25%
Robin Dawson More than 1 year ago
Fair enough...you make good points! Good luck!
Scott Steele More than 1 year ago
as i said above the higher purses at racinos leads more investment in claiming...you can make your money back with a quick win two and you pay your training bills for the year before you would struggle to break even in 96 i had a horse racing bottoms at northland had 2 wins 1 2nd and one third racing bottom claimers made 5500 today same track i would make over 15000 as for food and drinks the chartered accountants have to realize not all depts need to make money. do like vegas and alot of the american tracks have cheap drinks and food...at turf paradise i can get a hot dog beer and program for 4 dollars in canada that would cost me 12 with a total budget of 100 a daY IT GOES SO MUCH FURTHER AND i am churning that money thru the mutuals again and again all day long instead of bein soaked at the concession stands