Thursday, August 2, 2012

Closing racetrack slots will devastate the economy

To the Ontario Government and those running in upcoming elections.  I am writing to say I cannot support a regressive program with the potential to devastate the rural economy.

I am writing in support of the horse racing and breeding industry in Ontario to provide you with the facts on why the province should leave the industry’s partnership with OLG alone. The revenue that the industry receives is not a subsidy, it is a revenue-sharing partnership between the OLG and the horse racing industry which provides the Government of Ontario with an increasing amount of revenue to the tune of more than $1 billion a year.

Premier McGuinty clearly mis-spoke when he referred to the "subsidy" to the horse racing industry.  In point of fact it was a revenue-sharing agreement between the government and the horse-racing industry: 75% of net revenue from the slots to the province, with remaining revenues split between track owners (10%), horse owners (10%) and host municipalities (5%).  Make no mistake - there will be a huge impact on the Town of Milton.

The Slots at Racetracks Program is the biggest contributor to the OLG’s profits, which are used to fund healthcare, education and municipalities in Ontario. The government owned, stand-alone casinos are losing money while the horse racing industry shares the burden of increased competition to its wagering dollar. Any change to this revenue sharing partnership, would not only have a negative effect on the horse racing and breeding industry, it could virtually end the successful revenue stream to the province, costing the government of Ontario $1.1 billion dollars per year.

Furthermore, the Ontario horse racing and breeding industry employs more than 31,000 people full time in our province.   Canada has been steadily losing full-time jobs.  The number of people who have to resort to low-paying, part-time work because they can't find full-time employment, has been escalating.  Losing 31,000 full-time jobs will be a major loss.  More than $1.5 billion dollars a year are paid in wages by the horse racing and breeding industry.

The industry spends approximately $2 billion a year in expenditures, 80% of which is spent primarily in rural, agricultural communities. An effort to save $345 million of well invested revenue, it will cost the government $1.1 billion in annual OLG profit and cripple the rural economy when more than $2 billion in horse racing and breeding industry expenditures disappear.

Rural Milton is an example of the success of the Slots at Racetracks Program:  a great economy has been built around the horse racing industry:  breeding programs, training facilities, feed growers and vendors, etc.  Taking away the Slots at the Race Tracks is a totally regressive step, and will hurt farmers and farming, and the local economy, throwing thousands of people out of work.

Slots facilities are also a way for Tracks to create a year round operation, allowing them to diversify, impossible without the presence/attraction of Slots.

The economics of this proposal just don’t add up. I urge the provincial government to take some time to understand just how beneficial the Slots at Racetracks Program is for the government and the people of Ontario and to leave the horse racing and breeding industry alone.

Jan Mowbray

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