Cutbacks threaten small racetracks in Ontario

Cutbacks threaten small tracks, horse racing industry says

 Published on Tuesday February 14, 2012

By Jennifer Morrison
special to The Star

 Smaller horse tracks in the province would be in serious trouble if the provincial government takes slot-machine revenue away from operators, says a spokesperson for the industry.

 “Horse racing in a lot of these small communities, such as Dresden, Windsor, London, Fort Erie and Ajax, will be finished,” said Sue Leslie, president of the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association. “And then how will those townships around these tracks survive if all those workers are gone? Who will be in their restaurants, at the gas stations, in their Wal-Marts?

 There was a buzz on the racetrack backstretch this week but it was not from the excitement for the upcoming season. Instead, it was from the bombshell dropped on the industry on Monday after Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan spoke at the Economic Club of Toronto.

Please read the full story here:–cutbacks-threaten-small-tracks-horse-racing-industry-says


  1. Brian Keenan · ·

    Don Drummond is a Genius!
    Sometimes you just can’t see the forest for the trees! Mr Drummond is a genius, not because he has given us the solutions to the province’s deficit problem but because he identified the areas that need to be addressed. It’s up to us to cultivate the ground-work he has done and plant the solution seeds! Don Drummond has pointed us to at least one way to clip over a billion from the deficit through OLG.
    One of the problem areas Mr Drummond identified for us involves the revenue sharing agreements with the horse racing industry. Millions and millions (actually the number exceeds $1.5 billion) of dollars have been paid to the race track operators and the Ontario race horse breeders over the past 10 or so years under the OLG Slots at Racetrack agreements. The 2010 payments totaled $334 million alone. Half of that goes to the track owners and operators and half goes to the horse people.
    The horse people use those funds to improve the breeding stock in the province and support race purses to attract quality breeders to the tracks. This side of the current formula supports 55,000 jobs (according to the HLT Report on Horse Racing) in Ontario and generates tons of tax revenues and spending for and in the province. It would be like shooting yourself in the foot to tamper with this part of the arrangement so leave it alone. The industry derives its income from three sources: wagering on horse races, the sale of Ontario-bred racehorses and slot revenue. The Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA) manages the use of the slot revenues.
    The second part of the formula involves payments to the track owners and operators. These payments to the 17 Slot at Track partners totaled $169 million in 2010 and many millions in previous years. The agreements anticipated that improvements would be made to racetrack infrastructures, they did not specifically require improvements to be made and benchmarks and controls were not put in place by OLG to ensure that this would happen. Most track operators did initially make improvement to their racing facilities to accommodate the slots, some more than others. With some exceptions, much of these millions of dollars paid to the track operators simply evaporated and most certainly have not been used to improve the facilities.
    Maybe Don Drummond saw this loop-hole in the Slots at Track program or maybe not but this is where a change and a new solution should be found; a solution that will NOT affect the revenue to the horse owners.
    Here is my solution to the later problem! Transfer the ownership of the racetracks to OLG so that 50% of this subsidy or whatever you want to call it goes back to the government to help pay down the province’s staggering deficit. There is more! Close some of the 17 racetracks and build Super-tracks with full service casinos at geographically disbursed locations, like Woodbine, Mohawk, Ajax Down, Fort Erie, Rideau and Sudbury. Oh, did I forget some of the tracks? Yes, because we need to eliminate some to consolidate.
    Now for the bite that will hurt the most but will help both the horse people and the industry. Close the Windsor, Sarnia, Dresden, Clinton and Western Fair tracks and add a Super-track to the Dealtown Casino Initiative where the government already owns a 250 acre parcel of prime real estate and where they already have a 650,000 sq ft resort facility that can be transformed into the Dealtown Casino Racetrack and Retirement Village AT NO COST TO ONTARIO TAXPAYERS! The casino and racetrack will be paid for by one of the major gaming and hospitality developers, like Penn National or Delaware North who have impressive track records in both racetracks and casinos, or partners like Paragon Gaming of Las Vegas or Donald Trump who both have solid track records in Canada.
    Thank you Mr Drummond for identifying the problem! Now it’s time to implement the solutions!
    By Brian Keenan, Chairman of the Dealtown Casino Initiative

    1. Goride · ·

      Mr Keenan, you neglect to say that Slots at Racetracks generates over 1 billion dollars annually in revenue for the government, without them putting a penny in. Every dime that goes to horsemen and tracks comes from discrecionary spending, not tax payer dollars, and the money that horsemen earn and reinvest churns over 2 billion per year into the economy. One of the reason that Hiawatha, Western Fair, and all the other tracks you mention do so well is because they are LOCAL, which means easily accesable, and 5% of the take from the slots goes directly into the local municipality. If you close down the local sites, you will lose a large perentage, if not all the customers, because of distance, and because they want to support the local economy.

      As I see it, your proposal will be the biggest white elephant in history..

  2. Funny thing about politicians….Conservative MP Garfield Dunlop was down at Queens Park yesterday with the protesters……helping to protest what the Liberals are trying to do to the racetracks. I think what the Liberals are trying to do is wrong. But the Conservatives support Horses slaughter & Dunlop will not answer ANY kind of correspondence about it. I post on his facebook wall & send him emails…NEVER a reply. So silent about the revolting horses slaughter industry. But he is working hard to make the LIberals look like the devils (that they are) all the while the Conservatives are just as bad! If not worse! What ever happened to really caring?

  3. The race tracks need to be shut down, they are one of the major causes not one of the symptoms of the problem. The weed needs to be pulled from its roots, and one of horse slaughter’s ugly roots is the racing industry.

  4. shoshone · ·

    If the race tracks are shut down the broodmares will go for slaughter. At least there won’t be a new crop of low grade foals created every year to eventually feed the slaughter house market. All other horse breeding industries have cut way back so I think it will be a benefit to horses if the racing industry does the same. No market no breeding. Jobs will be lost but that happens in every other profit oriented business.

    If only the dog and cat breeders would clue in!

  5. I’m of two minds about harness racing, as some know, and racing in general. But if we can persuade harness racing authorities to be diligent about overseeing the age, care, and disposition of harness racers, it is a sport which can continue with no harm to pacers and trotters. Beyond that (and we won’t stop lobbying for better care and retirement or re-purposing options), our equines can continue to astonish onlookers with their speed, beauty and unique gait. One of the sad results when Attractions Hippiques went under was that the myth that Standardbreds could not be re-trained (as riding horses, etc) was so prevalent that many owners just sent them to slaughter. It’s so untrue! The Standardbred is an extremely intelligent, versatile breed (some say, even moreso than the TB) and can be re-purposed very, very easily. Dunno…I’ve known men who were harder to retrain than horses….I’m just say’n!

  6. Leslie Kuretzky · ·

    This will be a tragic thing to happen to Ontarios smaller tracks. We have to pester the Government like crazy to get them to not let this go through.

  7. In mid-2008 and 2009, we had the same thing happen in Montreal. Hundreds of Standardbreds went to slaughter, and dozens of trainers, owners, harness race jockeys and owners moved south or to Ontario. I don’t understand these deals between Attractions Hippiques and the slot machines, which appears to be similar in Ontario. Refuge RR and Refuge Galahad and ecuries Diabolo saved a lot of those Standardbreds, but still….

  8. I had also commented on this wioll now have more horses going to slaughter.

  9. I posted this almost a week ago when it hit the news on my FB page. Guess no one reads it. Woodbine as I had stated is one of the ones being hit for parking and a stupid mall!!!

  10. That will put a lot of the breeders out of business unless they want to move to the US. This will eventually lower the amount of horses going to slaughter after all of the brood mares are disposed of and there is less breeding. It’s not as if any of the breeders will bother to train any of their brood mare herds so they might find homes.

    1. B Morley · ·

      While this will eventually reduce the number of horses in the province, it does not address the horses, broodmares, foals, yearlings, racehorses that are currently in limbo. Your suggestion that breeders will “not bother” to train their mares is specious at best. First of all, breeders are not sitting on sacks of money to pay to support these horses just to have them hang around. Many people will be out of jobs in the next few weeks and months, many will actually lose their homes.Even if all them had the ability to train these horses to ride, which many don’t, rest assured that there are not enough GOOD HOMES with QUALIFIED owners to take over the thousands of horses that will be available. We have mares here that have basic training and we can’t find approved homes for them. We, and other breeders have given a number of mares away to CARING homes over the years, but what about the 23 year old girl we have kept because she is not sound enough to ride, and is just too cranky to live with any but her buddies? There is also the 18 year old who still likes to be aggressive to people, but we give her a good home anyway, we owe her that. We have some younger mares that were great race mares, and are in foal, but I sure as heck don’t want to ride them, and they are too bold to be pleasure driving horses. With 60 years in the horse business, and many years riding, I’m pretty sure I can tell you if a horse is suitable for the kind of people who come looking for free or cheap horses. Sadly, most of you aren’t good enough to own my horse, and putting it down is better than having it turned out with a herd of pigs and a yard full of machinery, and being fed popcorn for breakfast.

      When horse slaughter was abolished in the U.S. and the economy took a dive, there was nowhere for horses to go when people lost their jobs and could no longer care for them. Not their fault at all. In Arizona, and many other states, horses that were used to having feed and water put in front of them were dumped out in the desert to fend for themselves. Those which did not starve to death, or couldn’t find water were taken down by coyotes, or hit by vehicles on the road. Would not it have been better for them to spend one day on a truck, and die the following day than wander helplessly to a slow, agonizing death, wonering where they went wrong?

      Before you judge with your heart, use your head. Come up with REAL solutions, because most breeders, and most horsemen would love for you to do so.


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