The letter below was run as a full page advertisement in the Toronto Star in defence of Ontario’s horse racing and breeding industry.
Click here for the Toronto Star ad pdf.OHRIA Toronto Star Ad
Dear Members of Provincial Parliament:
Yesterday, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan presented a budget which he characterized as difficult but necessary in order to begin the hard work of reducing the Province’s $16 billion deficit.
One of the proposed deficit reducing measures announced by Mr. Duncan is the cancellation of the Slots at Racetracks program. The Minister states that this will save the taxpayers of Ontario $345 million each year. This is not true! The Ontario horse racing and breeding industry receives not one nickel of taxpayer money! It rightfully earns a share of consumer spending generated at its private sector racetracks. In actual fact, CANCELLING THIS PROGRAM WILL ADD HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS ANNUALLY TO THE PROVINCE’S DEFICIT.
Here’s why. The Slots at Racetracks program returns a profit to the Province of Ontario of $1.1 billion annually. Cancelling this program will eliminate this proven source of government revenue which funds priority programs such as health care and education. Mr. Duncan explains that this revenue will eventually be replaced by new casinos in new communities. Time will tell. Why cancel a remarkably successful program which generates $1.1 billion in profit annually for the Province of Ontario and destroy the Province’s horse racing and breeding industry and its 60,000 jobs at the same time? There is no logical answer to this question.
The Slots at Racetracks program may be the best public-private partnership ever entered into by the provincial government. In the late nineties, the government wanted to expand gaming and negotiated with the horse racing and breeding industry to put their OLG Slots into the 16 private sector racetracks throughout the province in competition with wagering on horse races. A deal was struck that shared the slot revenue generated at those racetracks 75% to the Province, 20% to the horse racing and breeding industry and 5% to the host municipalities. The Province didn’t have to buy any land or construct a single building. Racetracks agreed to contribute approximately 50% of the capital to develop the slot machine facilities. And, the Province gained immediate access to horse racing customers. To use Don Drummond’s words: talk about Value for Money!
Ontario’s horse racing and breeding industry contributes over $2 billion in recurring expenditures annually to the provincial economy and $261 million in direct taxes on top of the $1.1 billion in profit from the Slots at Racetracks program. The McGuinty government, in a misguided attempt to squeeze even more profit from the slots, has decided to cancel the Slots at Racetracks program, put the entire horse racing and breeding industry and its 60,000 jobs in jeopardy, and has deceitfully misrepresented the contract as a subsidy in an effort to get the public onside. Shameful.
Dwight Duncan says that difficult decisions must be made. PLEASE ASK YOURSELF: Is this a wise decision which will help to address the Province’s deficit or a faulty, wrong-headed, politicized decision that will add hundreds of millions of dollars to the Province’s deficit?