RacingFuture Addresses Slot Machine Issues in Ontario
RacingFuture.com, the proactive group which supports the horse racing industry in Canada, has written an open letter to the Ontario Premier, Dalton McGuinty, expressing its concerns for the future of the breeding and racing industry in the province if slot machines are removed from racing venues.
The government recently announced plans to pull slot machines in Ontario from the race tracks, cancelling almost overnight a 14-year partnership which had been assisting the province's horse breeding and racing industry make a transition into the 21st Century.
In the open letter, the author from RacingFuture, Dennis Mills wrote: "We fear that what undoubtedly was meant to be a well intentioned move to maximize revenue opportunities for your government has the potential to rapidly become a very unnecessary human, economic and social catastrophe."
Mills believes that not enough analysis of the impact that the abrupt change would have was made, nor were the risks to the tens of thousands of jobs taken into account.
Ontario's horse racing industry directly contributed more than $2.3 billion to the province's annual income in 2010, wrote Mills, and three times as much when one added the indirect and induced multipliers.
Wrecking of a Symbiotic Partnership Feared
RacingFuture's open letter to the Premier continued: "What is at stake here is not the removal of a 'subsidy' as some people have wrongly described it, but the wrecking of what has been a complex and successful partnership."
"This partnership provided Ontario race tracks 20% of the revenue from the slot machines that they hosted, as an appropriate venue with prospective bettors already present and with capable security," the letter reads.
"Their portion of this 20% share has allowed the race tracks to increase purses, update their interactive technologies, and make capital improvements to the tracks. A near equal portion 20% goes to the rural breeders and trainers who, like most of the agricultural industry, have to compete in the face of generous offshore subsidies."
The letter says that while horse racing was once described as the "Sport of Kings", that cannot be applied today to the industry. "These days, horse racing and breeding is much more an industry of ordinary folks. It employs 55,000 people, 31,000 full time and very few are rich," writes RacingFuture.
Huge Loss of $60 Million in Taxes Expected
The letter makes clear the results of the removal of slot machine operations in the province, including the direct loss of $60 million in annual tax revenues to the local governments that host race tracks, as well as $165 million removed from "the already vulnerable annual incomes" of rural horse breeders and trainers.
"The race tracks which have invested heavily to upgrade their facilities over the 14 years that the revenue sharing program has been in place, will lose $169 million annually, along with virtually all of the capital investment they have put into hosting the OLG slots," writes FutureRacing.
"Purses will dwindle again, the horses, along with their trainers and riders will go elsewhere, and so will the people who bet."