OTTAWA, Oct. 4 , 2012 – Two Senators from opposite sides of the aisle are teaming up to condemn an Ontario government policy that may lead to the deliberate killing of 7,500-13,000 horses next year.
During hearings by the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee on a bill to legalize single-event sports betting, Liberal Senator George Baker and Conservative Senator Bob Runciman expressed alarm over the possible mass euthanization, which came up for discussion during testimony by officials from the Woodbine Entertainment Group, Canada’s largest racetrack operator.
The horses will need to be euthanized as a result of the cancellation of the Slots at Racetrack Program, which gives a portion of proceeds from slots located at horse racing facilities to the racing and equine industries. The end of the program will result in the loss of more than $300 million to the industry, resulting in the closure of all but a handful of Ontario’s 17 racetracks.
“This is nothing short of a massacre,” said Baker. “The Ontario government’s decision, through their policy, to indirectly authorize the killing of so many horses is unconscionable.”
Runciman, who has been sounding the alarm bells over the policy for several months, agreed. “Seventy-five hundred horses are collateral damage of a seat-of-the-pants policy that is costing 30,000 jobs and ruining a healthy industry. Ontarians should be outraged,” Runciman said.
The program, in which race tracks and the horse-racing industry split 20 per cent of revenue from slot machines located at tracks, has been widely credited with stabilizing and rejuvenating the racing industry by allowing tracks to offer higher purses. At the same time, it adds $1.1 billion annually to provincial coffers.
But Slots at Racetracks was cancelled with no consultation in the Ontario government’s spring budget. Slots have already been pulled from some tracks, with more scheduled to lose them next year as the government concentrates gambling in larger, urban casinos.