Recent comments made by Dwight Duncan, Ontario Minister of Finance, have suggested that the Liberal government would review this partnership, known as the Slots at Racetracks Initiative. Duncan’s comments reflect suggestions in the Drummond Report that the McGuinty government, “Review and rationalize the current provincial financial support provided to the horse racing industry so that the industry is more appropriately sustained by the wagering revenues it generates rather than through subsidies or their preferential treatments.”
The economic report further recommends that the province, “re-evaluate, on a value-for-money basis, the practice of providing a portion of net slot revenues to the horse racing and breeding industry and municipalities in order to substantially reduce and better target that support.”
The monies are not a subsidy, grant or gift to the horse industry. The Slots at Racetracks Initiative began in December 1998. The agreement was created between the Ontario government and the horse racing industry with the objective of promoting live horse racing as well as creating economic development in the agricultural sector, through increased purses, improved quality of horses and enhanced breeding.
Here’s how the agreement works: under the Slots at Racetracks Initiative, the horse racing industry receives 20 percent of the total gross slot revenues, with ten percent going to the horse industry, to be invested back into horse breeding, ownership and racing, and ten percent to the racetrack operators. Host municipalities receive five percent of the gross slot revenues on the first 450 machines and two percent on additional machines.
A 2011 report by the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA) indicates a vibrant horse racing industry that employs an estimated 60,000 Ontarians and pays a total of $1.5 billion dollars of wages and salaries each year in Ontario, and it names horse racing as the second largest sub-sector of the agricultural economy in Ontario, exceeding the contributions of hogs, poultry, eggs and wheat in 2010.
The Ontario Harness Horse Association (OHHA), explained in a press release that racetrack slots generated approximately $1.7 billion in 2011, from which the Ontario government paid roughly $355 million in operating costs and approximately $345 million to the horse racing industry to cover its negotiated fee. “That means that last year alone, the government of Ontario cleared over $1 billion from revenue generated at racetracks across the province, without investing a penny in the industry.”
The Slots at Racetracks initiative has been highly successful and supports the racing industry and, in turn, the horse industry in general, as well as the economies of communities across all of rural Ontario. The racing industry is simply asking for the government to leave the agreement alone. Please voice your concerns to your MPP or Finance Minister Dwight Duncan and let them know what the horse industry in Ontario means to you.