Cuts to horse racing a slap in the face to rural Ontario

February 17, 2012

SIMCOE – Haldimand-Norfolk MPP is outraged at the suggestion of taking slots out race tracks in Ontario.

“This is a direct hit to rural areas,” Barrett said. “Horse racing industry creates 60,000 jobs in Ontario. While the direct jobs are at the track facilities in small towns and cities, the indirect jobs are on farms. Hard-hit rural areas need those jobs.”

While it has been falsely portrayed that the Ontario government subsidizes the horse racing industry, Barrett characterized it a different way, explaining the 20 per cent of racetrack slot revenue that is retained for the purses and facilities is a business agreement signed when allowed to set up at racetracks. The money doesn’t come out of general revenue. According to the terms of the agreement, the revenue at racetrack slots is shared 80 per cent government – 20 per cent to race track.

“This agreement doesn’t cost the Ontario government – in fact it makes it money,” Barrett said. “Why anybody would suggest changing it beyond me.”

The slot revenue has allowed the purses at Ontario tracks to increase dramatically. That, in turn, has allowed an expansion of the industry. Prior to the agreement, there were 40,000 people employed in the industry – both directly and indirectly through the need for more hay and grain to provide just two examples. Now there are more than 60,000 people employed in horse racing, making it the second largest agriculture sector in the province.

“This agreement has allowed the horse-racing industry to thrive,” Barrett said. “Taking away revenue share from the slots could decimate the industry and cost rural Ontario thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in lost revenue.”

The State of Ohio was formerly second only to Kentucky in the size of its horse-racing industry. As other states brought in revenue sharing agreements through slots similar to Ontario’s, growth was seen in the industry. In the meantime, Ohio has seen its industry slid to seventh in the nation.

Barrett plans to take part in a press conference and rally at Queen’s Park next Wednesday by his MPP colleague Garfield Dunlop.

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Toby Barrett