See the response of a disappointed horseperson, which is posted below.
I am asking that you print this letter as a form of retraction for an inaccurate sentence in the October 6, on-line and in-print article by Robert Benzie and Rob Ferguson titled “Election anniversary: Premier Dalton McGuinty learns the hard way that minority government can be a major headache”. The sentence in question states, “Among Drummond’s suggestions the Liberals did embrace was to end an annual $345 million slots subsidy to the horse-racing industry while revamping Ontario’s gambling industry and proposing more casinos.”
Don Drummond did NOT suggest the cancellation of the Slots at Racetracks Program. Drummond recommended a REVIEW of the Program. The Slots at Racetracks Program was NOT a subsidy, it was a revenue sharing agreement with similarities to the commissions that lottery retailers receive for selling lottery tickets.
The decisions made this year by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) and the minority Dalton McGuinty Liberals are close to causing the collapse of the horse racing industry in Ontario. Articles such as this only add to the inaccurate rhetoric the public has been receiving from the OLG and the McGuinty Liberals since the Modernization Report was released in March.
The OLG’s Modernization Plan which was hastily implemented outside of the Liberal’s 2012 budget has cancelled the most profitable OLG product, the Slots at Racetracks Program, to bolster the OLG’s Resort Casinos, which are losing more than $100 million annually for the last five years (2010 Annual Report of the Office of the Auditor General – attached). The OLG did not provide economic impact studies to back-up their Modernization Plan and did not allow the opposition parties a chance to review before implementation.
The Slots at Racetracks Program, which the OLG has cancelled as of March 31, 2013, was never a subsidy, it was a revenue sharing agreement between the horse racing industry and the OLG. The horse racing industry received 20%, the municipality where the racetrack was located received 5% and the OLG received 75% of the revenue from the slots. The success of this program not only contributed close to $1 billion in annual revenue for the government of Ontario, it allowed many municipalities to fund roads and bridges, sports programs and hospitals. The OLG has publicly admitted at their recent presentation in Vaughan that they do not know the percentage of revenue that the private operators of the new proposed casinos will be receiving, only stating that the private operators would “expect to make a profit”.
The OLG’s Plan is being implemented with such haste that the citizens of this Province should seriously begin to question the motives behind the Plan. Bill C76 requiring referendums before any new casinos can be built, is being stalled in the legislature after being canned in early June as part of the bargaining with the opposition to pass the 2012 budget. Meanwhile the OLG is feverishly trying to get municipalities to sign on the dotted line for a casino in their cities before Bill C76, which would allow the residents to decide if they actually want a casino in their neighbourhood, is tabled for third reading.
The Slots at Racetracks Program was OLG’s most profitable product line. It provided $1 billion in revenue which the government used to fund healthcare and education. The 20% share of revenues for the horse racing industry contributed to rural economies and an industry which contributes close to $2 billion in annual expenditures to Ontario’s economy. The horse racing industry is credited for employing more than 35,000 Ontarians as well as supporting thousands of spin-off agriculture and rural jobs across the province.
Two inaccurate statements in one sentence in the October 6 article have only served to further mislead the citizens of this province and have caused a huge disservice to the horse racing industry in Ontario.