Many may have already heard that 2012 will be the final season of racing at Fort Erie Racetrack. The Board of the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium (FELRC) of which the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association of Ontario (HBPA) is a member has worked diligently to reinvigorate the racetrack since taking over management of it in 2009.
The March 2012 announcement by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) regarding the termination of the Slots at Racetracks Program agreement effective March 31, 2013 and the subsequent announcement that slot machines at three boarder racetracks in the towns of Fort Erie, Windsor and Sarnia would be removed is the primary reason Fort Erie will formally close as of December 31, 2012. Without the $6 million dollar payment from the OLG on an annual basis the FELRC had no choice but to make this very difficult decision.
The FERLC did submit a business plan to the OLG to privately operate the slots at the racetrack but unfortunately, the OLG and the Ontario government deemed that Fort Erie is not one of the 29 gaming zones it has decided upon in their plans to modernize gaming in the province.
This is a devastating announcement for our industry but we encourage our members to continue to support Fort Erie this season by sending horses to the track to compete and we encourage thoroughbred racing fans to continue to bet Fort Erie.
We welcome today’s timely news from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) announcing the formation of a panel to work with the horse racing and breeding industry. A final report from the panel is expected in late summer 2012.
Sue Leslie, President of the HBPA and the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA) stated the following in response to OMAFRA’s announcement, “We take this as an indication that the government is recognizing the value that our industry brings to the Ontario agricultural economy and the public in general.”
OHRIA continues to focus all of their energies on the cancellation of the Slots at Racetracks Program and mitigating the impact to the industry. As such OHRIA has struck a Task Force to develop a plan and enter into a dialogue with government that will result in a viable and successful horse racing and breeding industry in Ontario.
The Task Force has retained Stanley Sadinsky Q.C. to assist and advise it on the development of the plan. Mr. Sadinsky, a lawyer, specializes in Gambling Law and Policy. He is a former Chair of the Ontario Racing Commission (1994-2003) and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) (2003-2004). He consults with government ministries and agencies and with the private sector on gambling policy and legal issues. He has written reports for government on the Problem Gambling and Responsible Gaming Strategy of Ontario (2005) and on a plan for the Strategic Development of the Horse Racing and Breeding Industry of Ontario (2008).
In addition MPP Monte McNaughton’s introduced a Private Member’s Bill requiring referendums prior to the approval of new gaming facilities. The Bill passed its second reading on May 3rd and was sent to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs for their review and assent. There has been no announcement concerning the status of the Bill as of this date.
For further updates please continue to visit our website http://www.hbpa.on.ca/