Is Horse Racing Critical to the Future of Ontario Agriculture?

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The Ontario Government recently announced that they will be ending the relationship of horse racing and slot machines.  Some free marketers are cheering the decision and others are weeping for the end of the horse racing business in Ontario.

I spoke to several farmers this week and this is definitely a hot button issue.   A couple farmers told me that the horse racing business is dying a slow death and no one is going anyways so why do we even care.  While others told me that horse racing is a part of the fabric of rural Ontario and the government must reconsider.

Personally I know several people that are either apart of ownership syndicates or own their own horses outright that they race weekly.  Naturally they are very upset with this decision.

According to BetterFarming.com,

Under an arrangement set in 1998, when the slot machines started moving into the tracks, a deal was struck that allowed the province to receive 75 per cent of the profits — or about $1 billion a year — while 20 per cent went to the track and the remaining five per cent went to the host municipality.

OLG was directed on Monday to initiate a massive redirection of the province’s gambling industry aimed at increasing the number of slot machine facilities in new, “strategic” locations and increasing the sale of lottery tickets, among other plans. A report from OLG contends the moves will increase revenues by $1 billion yearly, and create 2,300 jobs in the gaming industry and another 4,000 jobs in the hospitality and retail sectors by 2018.

Mark Wales, President of the OFA recently wrote on the OFA blog that this decision will have a very serious adverse impact on the agriculture community in Ontario.  Wales states in the post,

In other words, the proposed modernization plan is a gamble. And a very risky gamble for our province to be taking because the OLG does not appear to consider, in any way, the potential cost of these proposed changes – they are only looking at the possible increase in revenue.  The OLG is gambling and the stakes are Ontario’s horse racing industry, rural communities and thousands of small businesses.

What is your opinion?  Should the slot machines fund the racetracks in Ontario or should the industry have to survive on their own?  Is horse racing something worth subsidizing?  How critical is it to rural Ontario communities?

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