By Alex Campbell
The Ontario government-commissioned Horse Racing Transition Panel has released an initial draft of a long-term plan for the province’s horse racing industry for consultation.
In early May, Ontario’s Premier and agricultural minister, Kathleen Wynne, tasked the panel, made up of former cabinet ministers Elmer Buchanan, John Snobelen, and John Wilkinson, with creating a vision for the industry after the government ended the slots-at-racetracks program March 31. The final version of the long-term plan is expected to be made public in the fall. The initial draft was released June 28.
Similar to what the panel recommended in October 2012, the draft plan suggests that public funding for the industry beginning April 1, 2014, should be directly tied to commissions from pari-mutuel wagering on live racing within the province. The industry would be able to maximize government funding by maximizing pari-mutuel wagering, as funding would increase or decrease depending on the commissions generated.
Public funds to the industry would be directed to a new provincial racing governance body called Ontario Live Racing. Ontario Live Racing would consolidate industry revenues from net commissions from all types of wagering, the pari-mutuel tax reduction, and the government, and then distribute those funds to the three breeds based on their share of wagering on live Ontario races. As a result, Ontario Live Racing would include three breed-based divisions; Thoroughbred Live, Standardbred Live and Quarter Horse Live.
Ontario Live Racing would also be responsible for the creation of the racing calendar, the administration of the Horse Improvement Program and the Quarter Horse Racing Industry Development Program, and undertake centralized marketing and branding of the Ontario racing product. As part of the draft plan, leadership of Ontario Live Racing would be appointed by the government, but would include representatives from tracks, breeders, and horsemen.
Other key initiatives proposed by the Horse Racing Transition Panel in the draft plan include redesigning the Horse Improvement Program with an emphasis on developing quality and rewarding excellence, and integrating the horse racing industry within the province’s overall gaming strategy by using racetracks as gaming centers and offering a race-based lottery product or historical race wagering.
The Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association has declined to comment on the report until they can receive and review responses from industry stakeholders, and also participate in the public consultation process. OHRIA is encouraging all industry participants to review the draft plan in full and provide feedback to both OHRIA and the Horse Racing Transition Panel.
The draft plan will be under review during a series of public consultation events across the province between July 8-11. All sessions will be conducted from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Public consultation events are scheduled for July 8 at Western Fair District Raceway in London, July 9 at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, July 10 at Ajax Downs in Ajax, and July 11 at Rideau Carlton Raceway in Ottawa. Anyone wishing to attend these public consultation events must register by phone at 877-424-1300, by e-mail at email@example.com, or by filling out the online registration form at Ontario.ca/horseracingtransition.