Betting on the wrong horse
By Mark Wales, president
Ontario Federation of Agriculture
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The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) urges our provincial government to step back and take a serious look at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG)’s proposal to end the Slots at Racetracks program.
The recommendation to end the program, effective March 31, 2013, was recently adopted by the Ontario government in an effort to improve provincial gaming revenues. The OLG made the recommendation as part of its modernization plan, an effort to increase revenues.
The plan suggests the casino and slot facility modernization and the end of the Slots at Racetracks funding. The result of the proposed plan is expected to yield an additional $740-million in annual revenue to the province by 2017.
Ironically, the OLG included a statement in its own strategic plan that says, “Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected.”
In other words, the proposed modernization plan is a gamble. And a very risky gamble for our province to be taking because the OLG does not appear to consider, in any way, the potential cost of these proposed changes – it is looking only at the possible increase in revenue. The OLG is gambling and the stakes are Ontario’s horse-racing industry, rural communities and thousands of small businesses.
The result of OLG’s decision could see the end of racetracks in Ontario, causing the dissolution of a vibrant horse-racing and -breeding industry. And along with it, the province will lose approximately $2-billion in economic activity, more than 30,000 full-time jobs and valuable businesses that directly support Ontario’s agricultural infrastructure.
It appears OLG has failed to consider the impact its decision will have on Ontario’s horse-racing industry and the jobs it sustains across Ontario.
The industry currently works with OLG in a mutually-beneficial relationship, the Slots at Racetracks program – a revenue-sharing agreement. The racing industry is OLG’s most profitable partner. Can OLG actually increase revenues while losing its best partner?
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture strongly urges the province and the OLG to start working with the Ontario horse-racing industry to build on the productive and profitable relationship they have already enjoyed over the past decade. This partnership can be improved for mutual benefit and will continue to demonstrate its significant and valuable contribution to the Ontario economy and our rural communities.
We simply can’t afford to lose Ontario’s horse-racing industry on an OLG long-shot.
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Friday, March 16, 2012