The Ontario horse racing industry has been holding its breath waiting for the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) to announce race dates for the first quarter of 2013.
The Ontario Racing Commission has approved a total of 208 race dates for the first quarter of 2013, down by only 16 dates or seven percent from the same time period in 2012.
In a notice to the industry released on December 14, the ORC ruled on five applications for race dates from four different racetrack operators cautiously seeking a reduction from 224 race dates to 165, or 26 percent. However not all of the applications were successful.
“The year 2013 represents an unusual year with the Slots-At-Racetracks Program (SARP) scheduled to end on March 31, 2013. Until that date, all licensed racetracks and the purse accounts continue to receive their respective share of the slots revenue. The 2013 calendar year therefore includes two distinct periods, differentiated by a change in the economics of the industry,” states the report.
“The question therefore becomes should the 2013 season be treated holistically or as a combination of two distinct periods separated by the end of SARP?”
The ORC decided to approach the two periods separately due to the “significant uncertainty” that will challenge the industry beyond the March 31, 2013 deadline, deciding to act within the ‘known’ and not base their decisions on speculation.
Woodbine and Western Fair Raceway in London have each been allocated 51 days of Standardbred racing in the first quarter of 2013. Flamboro Downs has been reduced from five days per week to four, with a total of 52 race dates; Rideau Carleton has had 27 days of racing approved; Kawartha Downs has been allocated 23 days and Georgian Downs will hold four days of racing.
The new Sustainable Horse Racing Model proposed by the Horse Industry Transition Panel last October has suggested that at least six tracks be maintained with roughly 800 race dates, a 48 percent drop from 2012. The Liberal government has asked the panel members, former Cabinet Ministers John Snobelin, John Wilkinson and Elmer Buchanan, to continue to negotiate on behalf of the government until March 2013.