The Central Ontario Standardbred Association Board of Directors today offers its support and endorsement to the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association plan.
The COSA Board fully understands the debate and the concerns about the plan. There is no doubt that certain elements of the plan; including its proposal for a dramatic reduction in race dates, would have been non-starters in February of this year. However, subsequent events have changed the playing field in the horse racing industry. We are not now facing a potential problem down the road but rather an impending disaster, with a fixed time line – March 31, 2013.
The government’s position has been made clear. The Slots at Racetracks program, despite its obvious benefits for the province in general, as well as the horse racing industry, is being terminated. The industry response has been thorough and complete in pointing out the economic folly of this action but to no avail. There has been no indication at all that the current government can be dissuaded from terminating the SAR program.
Similarly, there is no indication that a change in government will restore the industry to the 10- 10 SAR deal that is now in place. Tim Hudak, leader of the Progressive Conservative party, set out his party’s position in a letter published several days ago. Mr. Hudak, while expressing support for the industry and indicating that he would have proceeded differently, also acknowledged that changes made by the current government will be very difficult for any successor government to reverse.
That is the reality we in the industry have to confront. In the circumstances, the Board of COSA believes that the OHRIA plan is a framework document that offers the best opportunity to engage the government in negotiation. In our view, threats of lawsuits or standing steadfast in demands to restore the SAR program completely are not going to advance the industry’s cause in the current climate. Simply put, we must get the government to the table and we believe that the OHRIA plan offers the best opportunity to achieve that aim.
For those reasons we support and endorse the OHRIA plan. We also wish to thank OHRIA, its task force and indeed other industry participants who have spent the time to put together proposals or plans for going forward. We hope that these efforts are met with a similar good faith effort by the government to ensure that there is a strong and vibrant horse racing industry in Ontario for the foreseeable future.