Ontario Horse Racing Policy Evolves

It's been about fifteen months, but the gaming strategy in Ontario is finally evolving; some might say, as it should've done before any hard decisions were made. In Monday's Globe and Mail, Premier Kathleen Wynne seems to be backtracking:
  •  Ms. Wynne is questioning the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.’s privatization and expansion strategy endorsed by her predecessors, according to government sources. She is no fan of the proposal to build a downtown Toronto casino, the sources said.
The OLG plan - strong on principle, but in my opinion, poorly executed - involves expansion of gaming across the province, to increase "$ per capita" spent on gambling. To achieve that, it needs something that some folks find wild and wacky: The support of taxpayers who pay everyone's salary.

That last part is the sticking point. The citizenry, through their municipal elected officials, seem to want more gaming in their backyards about as much as having an appendectomy. This plan is not selling, and when a major plank of the plan isn't selling, the whole house can come down pretty quickly.

For her part, the Premier appears to see the writing on the wall, and she also (for political reasons maybe, but who cares, that's life) wants to right some wrongs regarding our business - horse racing. She alluded earlier this spring that horse racing should be amalgamated with the OLG - much needed for our sports' future - and this week she took an added step:
  • To stem the political backlash, the government appointed a panel of three former cabinet ministers, Conservative John Snobelen, Liberal John Wilkinson and New Democrat Elmer Buchanan, last June to review funding for the horse-racing industry. The ex-politicians delivered their final report in the fall, but Ms. Wynne is now turning to the panel again, asking it – not the OLG – to take the lead on developing a plan to integrate horse racing with the province’s gambling strategy in time for the 2014 racing season.
This is absolutely huge, in my opinion. Horse racing will not be integrated with the OLG in some sort of lip service appointment, but will be represented with verve.

Horse racing can benefit in a number of ways, not the least of which could be a Woodbine casino. Its chances go up immeasurably, I believe.

Horse racing needs this, and so it appears does the government. Fifteen months ago there was a policy, some might think written on the back of a napkin. Fifteen months later, this policy has evolved, and horse racing is in a much better position than it was a year ago. Much better.

The future won't be filled with $50,000 purses at tracks with $100,000 handle. We won't have 17 tracks racing in Ontario. But what we will have, it seems, is a fair shot.

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