03/29/2013 12:44PM

Ontario legislators signal opposition to end of slots-at-tracks program

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TORONTO – Ontario’s legislature adopted a motion Thursday that would extend the slots-at-racetracks program beyond Sunday’s closing deadline and require referendums before new casinos are built in the province.

The motion, introduced by Taras Natyshak, a New Democratic Party member of provincial parliament, was backed by the NDP and Progressive Conservatives in a 53-33 vote.

The motion is not binding on the ruling Liberal government, but does make official the opposition’s position on the province’s gaming policy.

The Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association called on Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government “to accept the will of the majority of MPPs and immediately work with opposition parties, our industry, and other stakeholders.

“OHRIA is calling on Premier Wynne to restore [the slots-at-racetracks program] through 2013, while horse racing is integrated into a new revenue-sharing arrangement,” said Sue Leslie, chair of the organization.

“The industry needs to know the financial commitment for the long term immediately, so breeders and horsemen can confidently invest today given the five-year investment needed to breed and own racehorses.”

Earlier this month, Wynne announced that horse racing would be integrated into the province’s gaming strategy, in concert with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.

The Ontario lottery announced last year that it was terminating the slots-at-racetracks program, under which the racetracks and the horsemen each received 10 percent of the proceeds with the hosting municipalities receiving a lesser share and the province pocketing the balance.

The Liberals have promised transitional funding agreements to help the industry cope with the loss of slots revenues. Woodbine and Fort Erie have reached agreements, the details of which will not be made public until all of the province’s racetracks have completed negotiations.