The Ontario government announced a new investment proposal to provide additional funding for the province’s beleaguered horseracing industry. But the President of the Ontario Harness Horse Association believes the funding fails to meet the needs of the industry, and falls well below the revenue provided under the previous slots at racetrack revenue sharing program.
The proposal from the government is a $400 million commitment over the next five years to support racetracks. However, the government will only provide funding to racetracks which provide suitable business plans that collaborate with the province’s gambling modernization strategy.
But Brian Tropea, President of the OHHA, says the funding pales in comparison to the average $345 million the horseracing industry received from the slots at racetrack program each year.
“The slots are still operating at the racetracks. It’s just that the horse people aren’t sharing in that funding anymore.”
Tropea believes the new government plan will reduce the number of races and reward winners with lower cash prizes. The changes are expected to be implemented in April next year, and purse monies for trainers will amount to approximately $70 million a year – down significantly from over $100 million under the old program.
Tropea warns that racetracks have already lowered the number of races by approximately half of normal amounts in years past. He also is concerned that with reduced cash prizes, Ontario’s horseracing industry will further deteriorate as trainers turn their attention to US racetracks where a model similar to the old Ontario operation is being implemented.
“There’s two main things that drive investment in horse racing: the amount of times you can race and the amount of prize money you can race for.”
The horseracing industry is struggling to adapt to the province’s gambling modernization strategy, under the direction of the OLG which is negotiating for new privatized casinos in Ontario urban centres.
An olive branch was thrown to racetracks by Premier Kathleen Wynne, who confirmed the horseracing industry will be implemented into the OLG modernization plan. But details regarding how the integration occurs are yet to be determined.