As we’ve covered here on RealAgriculture.com before, the Ontario government announced last year that it would end the Slots at Racetrack program as of March 31, 2013. The partnership had allowed Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) to house its VLTs at racetracks throughout the province, and the tracks were given a 20% stake in the money collected. The abrupt end of that program has left the equine industry in Ontario reeling, unsure of whether or not there will be racing in the province at all this year. As of this week, we now know that at least the A-level tracks will race, however the industry is still in limbo.
The connections at Woodbine and Mohawk racetracks have reached a two-year deal with the province, essentially hiring the track as a landlord for the VLTs. The track will not get a share of the take — the province will receive it all — and race purse money will have to come directly out of the wagered handle. That’s all good and well for a big track like Woodbine, but as Bern Tobin explains in this interview, smaller B or C level tracks just don’t have the scratch wagered on each race card to make purses very attractive. In a twist that has nearly everyone shaking their heads, the province has ventured that it plans to find funds in some way to subsidize these purses. This comes after the McGuinty government claimed the Slots at Racetrack program was a subsidy and needed to be eliminated.
In a surprising move, Ontario’s new premier-elect, Kathleen Wynne, plans to take on the agriculture file in addition to her duties as premier. Is this a good thing for Ontario agriculture and horse racing specifically? Bern and Lyndsey discuss that point, plus why a two-year deal doesn’t necessarily add any stability to the racehorse industry and more in the video below.
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