WEG, which is known for its world class racing and facilities, has negotiated a short term deal with the Ontario government. This deal will ensure that there is racing at WEG in 2013 and 2014 while a more sustainable and long term racing model is negotiated between WEG and the Province.
While the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA) applauds the efforts of those involved in this short term agreement, OHRIA will remain vigilant in pursuing an agreement with the new Premier of Ontario and OMAFRA to ensure a sustainable horse racing and breeding industry for the long term.
“OHRIA thanks Minister McMeekin and the OMAFRA panel, Elmer Buchanan, John Snobelen and John Wilkinson, and from WEG Jim Lawson and Nick Eaves, for their efforts,” OHRIA president Sue Leslie said. “While this announcement ensures racing for the next two years at WEG, it does not deal with the five year breeding cycle and the investments made by breeders, horse owners, and race track operators all across this Province. Horse racing must be integrated into the OLG’s overall gaming strategy in order for the industry to remain sustainable.”
In 2012, the OLG implemented a modernization plan that included the building of 29 new casinos in the Province while terminating the highly successful Slots at Racetracks Program and excluded horseracing from the Province’s overall gaming strategy.
Initiated in 1998, the Slots at Racetracks (SAR) Program was a partnership between the horse racing industry, the OLG and the racetrack’s host municipalities. For more than a decade, this program has been a remarkable source of revenue for the Province, with more than C$9 billion (since 2001) in revenue being generated for the Province and used to build hospitals, community centers and infrastructure and donations to community organizations, mainly in rural areas. Under the SAR Program the Province received 75 percent of slots revenue, the horse racing industry received a 20 percent share of the slots revenue, a figure which was negotiated to offset the cannibalization of the industry’s wagering dollar to the slots, and the municipality where the racetracks are located received a five percent share of the slots revenue.
Since 1998, the C$2 billion horse racing industry, which employs more than 55,000 Ontarians has faced increased competition for its wagering dollar from OLG’s expansion of its casinos, lotteries and slots facilities. With the SAR Program ending on March 31, 2013, the horse racing industry is facing an uncertain future while OLG continues to expand its operations in direct competition with the horse racing industry and excluding it from its overall gaming strategy.
For more information on the Ontario horse racing industry, the Slots at Racetracks Program and the proposed OMAFRA Sustainability Model visit www.value4money.ca.