Future of horse racing industry outlined in new report
A meeting was held at the Western Fair on Monday for members of the horse racing industry to discuss a new draft plan by the Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel.
The draft report was released on Friday, and says it describes a “concrete plan for a long-term sustainable horse racing industry in Ontario.”
The industry was thrown into turmoil after the Slots at Racetracks Program was shut down. It had provided hundreds of millions a year in revenue for the racetracks.
And with the future of 50,000 jobs and billions of dollars on the line, those in the industry are paying close attention.
The draft plan says horse racing still requires some public funding. It’s less than through the slots program but more than the industry was expecting.
It suggests the government “dollar-for-dollar match with the industry commission on pari-mutuel wagering.”
Panel member John Snobelen says “It’s a better deal for taxpayers and it’s a real incentive for the racing community to do a better job at letting people know how great a product this is.”
The creation of a central body dubbed Ontario Live Racing is also recommended to handle revenue, racing schedules, horse improvement programs and the market and branding of the industry.
You can read the other recommendation in the full report here: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/about/transition/consultdraft.htm
Opinions on the plan were mixed, but at least one family says the whole industry is off track.
Jim Ellis’s family has spent 50 years in the business, he says “We’ve downsized. A year and a half ago I had 19 horses, now I have just five or six…Truthfully I haven’t promoted the game to my kids or grandkids.”
But Hugh Mitchell of the Western Fair says “It’s really premature to say how that would impact us.”
Ultimately, the plan would reduce the number of tracks from 12 to just five or six, with funding for smaller tracks like Dresden, Clinton and Hanover in question.
Smaller tracks could host five or 10 race dates a year so new drivers and horses could still train and compete for the bigger leagues.
Additional meetings are being held this week at Woodbine Raceway in Toronto, Ajax Downs in Ajax and at the Rideau Carlson Raceway in Ottawa.
A final plan is expected be drawn up by April 2014 after consultations on the draft report are complete, but many fear the industry is already on the way out.