Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan dropped a bombshell on Monday when he suggested the government might get out of the horse racing industry.
The government has had an agreement with the industry since 1998. The province gives 20% of its revenue from its slots-at-racetracks program to the industry.
Brian Tropea, the general manager of the Ontario Harness Horse Association told me this move would eliminate horse racing in the province, including here in London.
“They’re contemplating a decision that will absolutely devastate, wipe out the industy.”
The racetrack-slots program is a negotiated agreement, worth about $345 million.
“It doesn’t cost the province anything. It’s money that’s directed from revenues they’re generating at the racetracks,” Tropea said.
He said not only will horse racing be eliminated, but with it thousands of other jobs. About 60,000 Ontarians are employed through the industry, which pays a total of $1.5 billion dollars of wages and salaries each year in Ontario. It is the the second largest sector of the agricultural economy.
“They’re desperate. I don’t think they’ve thought out the economic impact this is going to have on them when horses are sent out of the province, breeding farms are shut down and blacksmiths … and veterinarians are put out of business and farmers can’t sell their feed to the horse industry no longer. This is going to have a huge impact on rural Ontario,” Tropea said.
OHHA is quickly mobilizing to get word out about the importance of the industry. He is encouraging people to contact their MPPs.
The industry is already struggling to show a profit during this stagnated economic period; it certainly can’t sustain itself after losing millions more.