Provincial report lays out potential future of industry
(PETERBOROUGH) David Gibson feels somewhat optimistic that the horse racing industry in Ontario will continue at Kawartha Downs, despite the Province’s decision to end the Slots at Racetracks program.
Mr. Gibson, regional director of the Ontario Harness Horse Association, was at local MPP Jeff Leal’s office on Tuesday (Oct. 30) when MPP Leal released details of a final report prepared by the horse racing industry transition panel. The report highlights a new model for the horse racing industry, but maintains the decision to cancel the Slots at Racetracks program was the right one.
It was announced early this year that the program would cease in March 2013, but the final report released on Tuesday provides a glimmer of hope that horse racing will continue at Kawartha Downs.
“This is the first step in trying to make sure there’s a way of sustaining racing in the province of Ontario,” says Mr. Gibson.
“It was announced in February (the Province) was discontinuing the Slots at Racetracks programs. Since, we’ve been fighting back to try to make the Liberal government understand it’s the second biggest agriculture industry in Ontario and it deserves a chance to survive.”
MPP Leal says it’s now up to officials at the Slots at Kawartha Downs to keep harness racing there.
“Every track owner will have the opportunity to get involved. It’s up to them to make the decision based on information released today (Tuesday),” adds MPP Leal.
“I think it should be at Kawartha Downs. It can become a first-class entertainment centre.”
The final report, prepared by a horse racing industry transition panel, sets out a vision for a successful and sustainable horse racing industry in Ontario, says MPP Leal. He adds the three-member panel, comprised of former cabinet minister Elmer Buchanon, John Snobelen and John Wilkinson, sets out a new path for the industry including a new model for horse racing. According to a statement from Ted McMeekin, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the model focuses on the consumer and is rooted in accountability, transparency, and the assurance that dollars invested are returned to the public through tax revenue.
MPP Leal highlights the following five areas from the report that he says creates a positive framework to keep horse racing in Ontario alive.
- Funding racing prizes, or ‘purses’ through wagering revenue.
- Developing a new, transparent governance model.
- Requiring full race cards to ensure continued racing opportunities for horses, maximize the sector’s economic benefits and respond to the interests of the betting public.
- Setting conditions for accessing transitional public funding to support race track operations that reflect the public interest.
- Continuing support for breeders through the Ontario Horse Improvement Program.