03/08/2013 1:14PM

Ontario premier voices support for racetracks


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – With the end of the racetracks slots program looming March 31, Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne had a positive message for the Ontario horse racing industry Friday.

Speaking at a press conference at Grand River Raceway in Elora, Wynne said that her government would integrate horse racing with the province’s gaming strategy, working with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.

“Racetracks will have access to revenues from new and different gaming opportunities,” Wynne said, supporting a recommendation by a three-man panel appointed to study the future of horse racing in Ontario last fall.

The OLG had announced last winter that it would end its slots partnership with Ontario racetracks, which saw 10 percent of revenues go to the horsemen for purses and 10 percent to the racetrack.

The transitional panel recommended that all wagering commissions would go toward purses and that government funding would enable the racetracks to continue operating.

Woodbine and Mohawk signed two-year transition funding agreements Jan. 23. The Woodbine Entertainment Group has eliminated more than 110 positions, some 25 percent of its salaried work force, and is downscaling services in anticipation of a decreased revenue stream.

Wynne also announced that tentative two-year transitional funding agreements had been reached with four Standardbred racetracks – Grand River, Western Fair, Hanover, and Clinton.

Wynne reiterated that the amounts of the funding would not be made public until negotiations with the province’s eight other racetracks had been concluded.

The OLG has reached agreements-in-principle to lease the existing slots facilities at all 14 racetracks.