Horses to race in Ontario this year, despite loss of slots revenues: CP
TORONTO -- Ontario's Liberal government has reached agreements with 14 racetracks to replace its cancelled revenue sharing slot machine program, and so far six have agreed to hold a 2013 horse race season.
The Canadian Press has learned the province has signed deals with a total of six racetracks to operate a race season this year, including Grand River and the Western Fair in London, and is still negotiating with eight others.
Government sources say Premier Kathleen Wynne will announce the agreements when she visits Grand River Raceway in Elora at today at noon.
The sources said Wynne will also announce that horse racing will be integrated with OLG's gaming strategy "to ensure more revenue streams for race tracks."
The government reached two-year agreements in January with the Woodbine Entertainment Group for the Woodbine and Mohawk racetracks, but the sources did not disclose the names of the other tracks Wynne would announce had signed deals.
The Liberals shocked the sector last year when they cancelled the $345 million a year share of slot machine revenues that went to tracks, prompting several tracks to close or announce plans to close.
A government panel concluded the slot revenue accounted for 64 per cent of the annual income for the horse racing sector in Ontario, and more than 60 per cent of purse money.
Financial deals of the new agreements with racetracks are being withheld while the negotiations continue with the other tracks, said one source.
"The government is committed to supporting a sustainable racing industry that is fair to industry partners and the people of the province," said the source.
The Ontario Horse Racing and Breeding Association said having slot machines at 17 Ontario racetracks used to generate $1.1 billion profit for the province each year, and warned 60,000 jobs were at risk with the cancellation of the slots program.
But the cash-strapped minority government, facing an $11.9 billion deficit, says it can no longer afford what the Liberals call a "subsidy" to the horse racing sector.
Members of all three parties had supported a motion by Progressive Conservative Lisa MacLeod last summer calling on the auditor general to review the cancellation of the slots at racetracks plan and its impact on the horse racing industry.
MacLeod collected close to 30,000 signatures on petitions calling on the Liberals to rethink the plan.
The New Democrats accused the Liberals of leaving Ontario's horse racing sector out in the cold after cancelling the revenue-sharing plan for slot machines at racetracks.