Saturday, September 1, 2012

I guess it's a case of putting panels together until you get the results you want. The results of a new government-appointed panel has been announced.  Unlike the panel appointed in 2008, which unanimously supported Slots at the Racetrack Program (SARP) and took a year for their consultations, this panel says to cancel SARP - after barely two months work.  I'm totally surprised because I believe OMAFRA to be one of the best government bodies in Ontario.  If you're so inclined, you can read the report here:

In 2007, the province appointed a 3-person strategic planning panel to develop a strategic vision for the Ontario Horse Racing and Breeding Industry.  “The Panel was charged with the task of examining the state of the horse racing and breeding industry (hereinafter referred to as “the industry”) and the development of a strategic vision and direction that identifies the challenges and opportunities that the industry faces, within the current gaming environment, in order to best ensure its continued growth in the future.”

While suggesting some change, the report said: “The Panel fully supports the continuation of the Slots at Racetracks Program at a minimum level of 20% of the revenue generated from slot machines at the racetracks. However, we also recommend that the Program be adjusted to better meet the objectives of enhancing wagering on Ontario product and enhancing the breeding of Ontario racehorses.”
Nowhere was it suggested that Slots at the Racetrack be canceled.  So what happened in the interim?

That government-appointed “Panel consulted with industry stakeholders, government ministries and agencies and other interested parties for input on all of the Terms of Reference and on any other matter that the Panel should consider. Without exception, all parties exhibited an unwavering commitment to the well being of the industry and its future within the broader gaming and entertainment markets.” (All bolding and Italics are mine.)

When the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Assoc (OHRIA)was created in 1994 it was estimated that there were 24000 jobs related to the industry, and was the 3rd largest sector in the overall agricultural economy of Ontario.  It was also known that these jobs were largely unskilled labour and would be difficult to replace.  So, consider the comments that these people, who have never known another job, could be retrained for something else, and that the government would allocate $51million for re-training.  If we extrapolate that amount for the 51,000 minimum who will be affected today, that translates to $1000 per person.  I can’t imagine the kind of training that would provide.

 “While the stated objectives of the Slots at Racetracks Program (the “Program”) referred to the enhancement of live racing, sustaining the agricultural sector and the generation of revenue for general provincial purposes, clear benchmarks were not put in place to monitor its benefit to the industry. Rather, the government rushed forward to open slot facilities at racetracks as quickly as it could.”  So, rather than put benchmarks in place, rather than renegotiating the agreement, the government has decided to cut the program entirely and put an estimated 51,000 people out of work, thus destroying a vital rural agricultural economy.  

My grandmother would have called it cutting off its nose to spite its face.

“The most recent analysis by HLT Advisory (January, 2008, Vol. II, Sec. 3) used the spending of revenues minus operating expenses approach to measure the economic contribution of the industry. Overall, the industry had net revenues of $641M, including revenues from slots, available in 2006 for initial expenditure.”

This next is a very long quote but bears inclusion: “It should be recognized that many of these jobs are part-time in nature. As such, many more than 24,569 Ontarians count on the industry for part or all of their livelihood.  
"In a recent study by Economics Research Limited (ERL), September 2007, it was estimated that between 25,000 and 30,000 Ontarians are engaged in the ‘equine side’ of the industry on a paid or unpaid basis. These full time equivalent jobs equate to 48,750 full time, part time and casual opportunities. ERL also concludes that with employment from the slot operations at the racetracks included, 40,040 Ontarians owe their permanent full-time jobs to the industry and its associated activities. 

ERL calculates that when part-time and casual labour is included, over 65,000 Ontarians rely on the industry and its related activities for some or all of their employment. Using this model, the approximately 24,500 full time equivalent jobs cited in the HLT report would equate to a total of approximately 40,000 full time, part time and casual jobs. Were one to include the employment sustained by the slot operations at the racetracks, approximately 55,000 Ontarians have jobs in the industry and its related activities.

Again, it’s worth repeating, those stats are for 2008.  The numbers would have to be much higher in 2012.

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