Racing Future recognizes that the responsibility of the Panel was a huge one given the stark realities posed by the sudden termination of the Slots at Racetracks Program: the potential loss of 55,000 full and part-time jobs, the issue of equine welfare, and, fundamentally, the devastation that would occur in rural Ontario. From the outset the task of the Panel was challenging and Racing Future applaud their tenacity, openness, and intelligence in determining policy that will assist an industry that has contributed over $14 billion to the Treasury of Ontario since 1998 and is one of Ontario's most important heritage assets.
Although everyone involved in this issue could easily spend time now finger pointing, we at Racing Future believe that we must attempt to focus all of our attention on the deadline of December 1st, 2012 for all Racetrack negotiations to be completed. It is from this point of view that we celebrate several of the Panel's statements not least of which is that "Ontario's horse racing industry is worth saving. It generates jobs, economic spinoffs and tax revenues. It is a valuable social and cultural asset, with deep roots in Ontario's heritage, and maintains strong links between rural and urban communities." (p 23)
Racing Future has always advocated that the Slots at Racetracks Program was a revenue-sharing partnership and we are pleased to note that the Panel concurs through their statement on page 11: "in the interests of sound public policy OLG should not subsidize racetracks but, equally, racetracks should not subsidize OLG."
As with most sectors of the provincial economy such as the automotive industry, environment, cultural sectors, etc, varying degrees of government support are imperative to survival. Specific to horse racing, the Panel notes that they "could not find a single example of a viable horse racing industry without some form of public support (p.1). Having said this, the Panel goes on to state that the current agreement with Slots at Racetracks Program will conclude on the date originally set forth, March 31st, 2013, but by December 1st, 2012 a new agreement will be in place. Moreover, the Panel has stated quite emphatically that the horse racing industry will be supported at least in its transition phase, which has been set at 3 years. The Panel has not stated the quantum of financial support but they have stated, on page 17 of their report, that the Government needs to "allocate funding over the next three years to support implementation of the Sustainable Horse Racing Model."
The following are some additional recommendations of the Panel that Racing Future endorses and supports:
On page 18, the implementation of the Sustainable Horse Racing Model, which sets aside $10 million for marketing, understanding consumer behaviour and enhancing the horse player exercise.
Racing Future also support the recommendations to the government outlined on page 19:
• Explore a new horse racing specific lottery
• Deliver sports book in Ontario through the horse racing industry network.
• Allow Ontario racetracks to offer historical racing products
• Use the new net revenues (with projected total of $100 million per year) to offset future public funding of live racing, grow the racing industry, and enhance government revenues
Historical racing products - also known as Instant Racing Machines - will only work where there are no slot machines. Where there are slot machines and Instant Racing Machines in the same location, consumers invariably choose slots. It is important to keep this in mind when considering placement of Instant Racing Machines, which work very well in various locations such as Off Track Betting venues.
As with the pari-mutuel formula we hope that the proposed Racing Secretariat will split the "new revenues" (as outlined above) 50/50 between purses and the racetracks.
Additionally, the Panel has been very explicit on equine welfare and Racing Future support their recommendations to the government on page 21:
• Eliminate public funding of equine performance/breeding research and replace it with public investment through OMAFRA in overall equine health as required.
• Require breeders and owners to develop robust racehorse lifecycle plans.
• Provide funding for foundational lifecycle planning development work through Equine Guelph.
• Develop a therapeutic drug policy designed to enhance the second career options for racehorses.
Racing Future are concerned about the Panel's conclusions regarding promoting Ontario breeding excellence on page 12:
• Review both the Horse Improvement Program (HIP) and the pari-mutuel tax reduction memorandum of understanding to ensure funds make the maximum impact on the quality of Ontario horses and generate the maximum economic benefit.
• Cap the flow of pari-mutuel tax reduction funds into breeding program -- including HIP and the Ontario Sires Stakes -- at $30 million per year.
Panel Proposal: 160 – Dates In 2011: 165 – Change: -3%
Panel Proposal: 30 – Dates in 2011: 78 – Change: -62%