Ontario's 5 Year Racing Plan Yields Some Hope

I remember when I started working at a real job about twenty years ago. My boss threw a "5 Year Plan" in front of me with all kinds of figures and spreadsheety things school didn't teach me (I find business school is good until you go to work in a business).

He said "when you are making any change to a business, this is what you have to look at and analyze to ensure it's the right way to go"

Yesterday, Ontario released such a plan. It wasn't when it should've been released - that was about 18 months ago when they told the industry it was on its own - but it is what it is. And, surprisingly you may think, I am here to type that this plan is not bad at all (when compared to what it was with slots it is not, but comparing to what things were like is not productive because that's over)


Where about 18 months ago the industry was looking for table scraps on purses, this has changed. By my calculations with stakes, OSS and overnights, harness purses should be in the $80-$90 million range. This is down from the $160 million range with slots, but somewhere (as far as I can tell) around what it's at this year. 

In the US, there have been 3225 racedates so far this season, and this money includes all types of racing - slots, sires stakes, stakes, and overnights. Those dates raced for purses totaling about $344 million. In the US they race for about $106,000 a day on average.

In Ontario racedates in 2014-2019 are projected to be 771 per year. If you assume they are going to be racing for about $85 million, when all HIP monies etc are added, that means that the average purse in Ontario per raceday will be about $110,000.

In Harness Racing Update, COSA's Bill O'Donnell, who seems fairly happy with what racing ended up with, reported that he thinks Woodbine/Mohawk will be racing for about $200,000 per day.

Who Pays to Put on the Show?

Not reported too much in the press is the rent that the government will be paying to racing. As most know, slot machines are housed still at racetracks and the government is giving a fee back for racing to host them. According to the report, this fee is $100 million per year. I assume that money will be used to put on the live racing, and support racings marketing and infrastructure.

Who runs things?

One of the transition panel has been chosen to run the regulator, one to run the amalgamation between the OLG and racing and one to run the "Ontario racing live" portion. It's as close to what we've seen to a commissioner racing has ever had.

A note on that. Some folks have complained that the transition panel has been involved in the next five years. I think it's a good thing. They know racing because they've been studying it for all this time, and they come from three political parties. Whichever government gets in next will likely listen to them.

In a nutshell .....

There is a lot to be determined, but on the surface this plan looks workable. The racedate cut is nowhere near what it could have been a year ago. There is cash and dates for grassroots racing, Sires stakes and so much more that was not there previously. If you bought a yearling last year or this in the province (I did), we are much better off than we thought we were.

The plan seems to total about $400M for purses over the next five years, plus $100 million a year for infrastrcuture and operations and marketing. That makes the plan well north of $750 million.

When compared to what a New Jersey got after one year of their issues ($0) and with other states taking a big share out of racing, as was rumbled in Maryland yesterday, this money is not insignificant, and if the industry does not piss it away, racing has a chance to live after 2019.

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