The Ontario government said April 1 it will provide up to $500 million to the horse racing industry in the province over a five-year period under the Horse Racing Partnership Plan.
The funding has increased considerably from the $400 million Kathleen Wynne, Ontario's premier and minister of agriculture and food, pledged in October 2013. It is intended to aid breeders and is earmarked for regional tracks in Fort Erie, Ottawa and Windsor, among other locations.
"This plan is the result of a true partnership," said Wynne in a statement. "Everyone involved—government, industry, owners, breeders and track operators—have worked to put in place a shared vision. I'm confident this plan will not only create a sustainable racing industry in Ontario, but will create jobs and provide more opportunities for success. Ontario is now the most innovative jurisdiction in North America for horse racing."
Among the benefits of the new plan are: increased purses and race dates across the province; enhanced support for local breeders; integration of horse racing into the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation's Modernization Plan; creation of an alliance with innovative, leading Standardbred tracks; and increased operational support for regional tracks.
The Ontario government earlier last year ended the slots-at-racetracks program, which produced about $350 million a year for racing and breeding. Most tracks still have the government-operated machines, but purses and breed development now derive no revenue from gaming.
The government contribution averages about $80 million a year, but the new funding will increase that amount to about $100 million.
"The Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association is relieved that funding is in place to begin stabilizing the industry," said Sue Leslie, president of the OHRIA, in a release. "I'd like to thank Premier Wynne for her direct involvement in making this happen. The thousands of jobs associated with the horseracing industry continue to be an important part of the social fabric of Ontario."
Added Scott Minshall of Mishall Farms near Hillsburgh, Ontario: "As a breeder I am extremely excited about the future of racing in Ontario and thankful for the enhanced support that will allow us to build upon the rich history of Ontario-bred horses."