Western Fair District trying to be optimistic

With news Wednesday that the province is closing its racetrack slots in border cities, officials at Western Fair were cautiously optimistic.

I get the sense that the government isn’t telling anyone what’s coming next or how their plans to increase gambling in the province will unfold.

The program will get a massive overhaul and who knows what comes out on the other side?

The horse racing community is also nervous as the government changes the profit formula at the tracks.

At Hiawatha Horse Park, owner Jim Henderson, was stunned the slots on his property are closing. I have talked to Henderson in the past and he put his heart into that operation.

On Wednesday he told The Sarnia Observer that 140 employees will be out of work and the racetrack probably won’t survive. He said the local economy will take a hit.

In the same story, Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley was aghast that the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation hadn’t invited Henderson to the meeting to announce the closing of the slots. Bradley asked Henderson to attend.

The Hiawatha race meet begins in May. Who knows what happens from here on in, in Sarnia, London, or in any other city that has racetrack slots.

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8 thoughts on “Western Fair District trying to be optimistic

  1. Western Fair Ottawa & Woodbine ( Tor ) are getting full fledged casinos, the horse purse share of the slot profits will cease in Mar of 2013. This is a devastating blow to the industry that employs thousands of people, breeding farms are getting cancellations, people with mares in foal are not sure what to do ( the best thing to do would be to put the mares down before they foal ) There could be as many as 10,000 horses heading to the slaughter house. Hundreds of horsemen have trucks & trailers leased, these will all be returned to the dealers. The impact it will have on Guelph University will catastrophic. Hundreds of students going through to be vets in the equine industry will be left out in the cold with student loans to repay. The list goes on and on …

  2. Not one article, not one reporter, not one politician, or lobbyist, racetrack administrator quoted in any of these reports and opinion pieces…no one has done the minimum amount of research to examine if in fact the OLG charter/mandate allows OLG the unilateral de facto decision-making authority as to whether they may close, or open, or alter any facility without notice, without consultation, without stakeholders and additional wider voter approval.

    If the OLG has indeed been granted that purview to act and issue dictums of such overarching authority, then it certainly is a moot point…and it would be up to legislators now to try to push through new laws to contain (defang and neuter) them.

    Of course, if the the OLG does not have such authority, worker organizations and city governments need to immediately begin every legal process to stop all of the OLG planned activity and seek to bring the whole operation to public review.

  3. Anyone,
    In the previous post about slots at racetracks, I did an interview with Brian Tropea, general manager of the Ontario Harness Horse Association. In the above piece, I credited The Sarnia Observer with doing the reporting work on getting comment about the closing of the slots at Hiawatha Horse Park.
    Gord, who left a comment, has intimate knowledge of the industry, having worked in it for years.
    I extensively wrote about the opening of the slot parlour in London and the OLG had the authority to open it so they must also have the authority to close. But a good question to ask.
    Perhaps Gord and other members working in the industry may plan to challenge the OLG.
    You may remember there was a question posed to voters about bringing slots to London about 15 years ago and a majority of Londoners said they didn’t want it. In the end, the slots arrived anyway.

  4. KR…I was wondering if you as a former local reporter, perhaps a J-school grad, or with contacts as such, where would one find the official government record archive or link to the actual OLG statutory authority? In addition, where does one search for the minutes to the meetings that decided operational decisions, annual reports, and of particlar interest, direct information regarding this latest decision.

    Also, I can tip my hat to Gord’s intimate knowledge of the industry. if for one he could graciously share his source, for his statement:”There could be as many as 10,000 horses heading to the slaughter house.” and two: his statement, “The impact it will have on Guelph University will (be) sic catastrophic. Hundreds of students going through to be vets in the equine industry will be left out in the cold.” I don’t think hyperbole is helpful if he is representing the industry, unless of course, this is simply an expression, a hyperbole, comment or an impression.

  5. During my time reported about OLG decisions, it was very frustrating to get information out of the commission. Hard even to get a comment.
    Access to Information requests would be the best way to go as otherwise you’re chasing your tail.
    You ask good questions here and also on the other post “Harness Racing Could be Wiped Out.”
    About online gaming or online voting: Gaming will come first and is already in the works. Here is a Request for Proposal I found about internet gaming. Sorry. The link probably won’t come up immediately so you’ll have to do a cut and paste.
    http://www.merx.com/English/SUPPLIER_Menu.asp?WCE=Show&TAB=3&PORTAL=MERX&State=7&id=PR227970&src=osr&FED_ONLY=0&ACTION=&rowcount=&lastpage=&MoreResults=&PUBSORT=0&CLOSESORT=0&IS_SME=N&hcode=DETLfV96MjzDSL5JT80O8A%3d%3d

  6. Fascinating. Thanks.
    Its great to share resources and step by step get closer to the truth.
    Very helpful. And always wonderful to learn new things or see things anew.

  7. Now I’ll share my information…
    Above, when I was making reference to the need to look at the actual source material (official annual reports, minutes etc) to better understand the issues—authority, scope, cause and effect of current decisions—this is more along the line of what I had in mind:
    http://www.auditor.on.ca/en/reports_en/OLGC_en_web.pdf

    You may actually have even covered some of the scandal outlined therein that has dogged OLG in the past.

    Based on past revelations of questionable Board practices, consequent firings, resignations and disgrace…I’m willing to ‘bet’ that current proposals for changes to the gaming landscape are simply an excuse to try once again to clean house, by whatever means possible.

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