In June 2012, after weeks of pressure from OHRIA and with the help of Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Ted McMeekin, the OMAFRA panel was assembled by the Government. The panel met with or received submissions from numerous organizations, associations and individuals within the horse racing and breeding industry and has now presented a report back to Minister McMeekin.
The OHRIA board has reviewed the OMAFRA panel’s report and OHRIA is appreciative of the effort of the OMAFRA panel for providing a report which has provided a path forward for the industry.
OHRIA would like to highlight the many positive statements contained in the OMAFRA panel’s report which include:
- the horse racing and breeding industry is worth saving
- the horse racing and breeding industry is a valuable contributor to Ontario’s economy ($2 – $2.5 billion gross expenditures)
- the horse racing and breeding industry is worthy of government investment
- the horse racing and breeding industry is a valuable social, cultural and community asset.
The report further states that, given the significant public good derived from horse racing, the province should pursue a gaming strategy that includes horse racing and breeding as a key component based on the following assessments:
- Without slot revenue or a new revenue stream horse racing in Ontario will cease to exist after March 31, 2013
- Ontario’s horse racing and breed industry is labour intensive. There are 20,000 to 30,000 full time equivalent jobs which translates into employment for thousands more
- Horse racing and breeding generates jobs, export and tax revenue
- $50 million over three years is insufficient to build a bridge to sustainability.
- If the industry were to shut down, the implications for thousands of people and thousands of horses would be dire
The OMAFRA report highlighted the importance of the existing Horse Improvement Program (HIP) and Ontario Sire Stakes (OSS) Program and recommends that they continue, a statement which OHRIA thinks bodes well for buyer confidence at the upcoming horse sales in Ontario.
The panel strongly encourages the government to keep horse racing in the mix of gaming opportunities in Ontario by forging “a new partnership” with the industry.
The OMAFRA panel strongly urges that the government review and decide quickly on the recommendations outlined in the report before further substantial economic losses are incurred by the horse racing and breeding industry in Ontario, including preserving the health dignity and lives of between 7,500 and 13,000 Ontario horses in 2013.
The OMAFRA panel has asked for a continuance, to work with OHRIA and the horse racing and breeding industry, to create a detailed plan for the future and is scheduled to report back with the plan to Minister McMeekin’s office by September 30, 2012.
The Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA) is appreciative of the OMAFRA panel’s efforts, “OHRIA recognizes the effort and worthy contribution of the OMAFRA panel and looks forward to continuing our work with the panel to formulate the plan,” commented Sue Leslie, President of OHRIA.
Sue Leslie would like to assure the industry that the OHRIA Board will continue its efforts to preserve a healthy and vibrant horse racing and breeding industry in Ontario. “We see this report as a positive step toward working with our government to achieve an outcome where the horse racing industry will continue its valuable contribution to Ontario’s economy.”