The good news coming out of the government-commissioned Horse Racing Transition Panel’s Oct. 30 report is “the conversation has started,” reports Clinton Raceway’s general manager.
Ian Fleming says the report, which contains two proposals, both of which propose fewer race dates and smaller purses, sets a Dec. 2 deadline, meaning it won’t be much longer before the raceway gets a better grasp on its sustainability.
“The good news is they want to start talking to the tracks about what we can do for racing,” says Fleming, who also endorses the panel’s proposal to allow the horse racing industry to offer new gaming products at racetrack facilities such as single-game sports wagering, horse racing-related lotteries, and Instant Racing.
Still, proposals to cut purses are troubling, acknowledges Fleming, who says while some people are in it as a hobby, “it’s a business for the majority.”
And, he notes, a 50-plus per cent cut to purses would mean the raceway would not be able to operate for as many days per year.
Fleming, who met with the panel when it traveled to Guelph, says the talks left him with the feeling they are “understanding of the situation,” and how massive changes will impact Clinton’s economy.
Regardless of what comes down the road, the racing season for 2013 will likely remain the same, reports Fleming. The not-for-profit Clinton Raceway, which marked its first season in 1970, employs nearly 60 full, part-time and seasonal employees.
Other recommendations in the panel’s report include capping the amount of funding to the Horse Improvement Program and the Ontario Sires Stakes program at $30 million per year and monitoring any funding issued to the industry every three years against industry-wide metrics.
The Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association is eager to see the talks begin.
“While the panel’s new Sustainable Horse Racing Model leaves many questions unanswered, OHRIA believes this is an opportunity for the industry to commence meaningful negotiations directly with government,” reported the association in a prepared statement.
A cloud of uncertainty has been looming over the horse-racing industry since the province announced it is ending the slots-at-racetracks program in 2013.