Rob Cook's Blog
I Wanted To Share What I've Learned So Far
Published: August 11, 2016 3:05 pm ET
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With two weeks under my belt at Ontario Racing, I wanted to share what I’ve learned so far.
First, as I continue to meet professionals in this industry, my key takeaway has been that this is a group of passionate and hardworking individuals, dedicated horse racing and to the future of the sport in Ontario.
I share your commitment and your concerns, but am optimistic that there is a path forward. As I work with our partners in government, at the AGCO and at OLG, and at tracks and within horsepersons associations, to build that future – I have also learned how the current circumstances came to be. Knowing where we have been is integral to shaping where we will go.
Twenty years ago, the government of the day designed the pari-mutuel tax reduction program (PMTR) that returned 6.5 per cent of pari-mutuel tax to the industry under a memorandum of understanding. You know where the story goes next: five years ago, the government cancelled another program that provided support to the industry – the Slots at Racetracks Program (SARP), and the subsequent reinvestment of public funding through the Horse Racing Partnership Program (HRPP).
These changes have brought with them a need for horse racing to assume a senior role both in directing and administering a multi-faceted racing program and in designing a long term funding arrangement with government.
As is often the case, change was a long time coming but very quick in implementation. Last fall the government began preparing to dissolve the Ontario Racing Commission and transition administration to OLG and regulation to AGCO.
Why Ontario Racing? We are not the ORC, and we are not OHRIA. Our goal is to have Ontario Racing fully in place as the recognized industry association on January 1, 2017. Until that time, Ontario Racing has and will continued to benefit from OHRIA’s expertise. Governance and industry representation is critical for Ontario Racing - now, and in the future.
Until this point, OR has been more engaged with partners like OLG, AGCO and government, than we have with the industry. That will change. The primary purpose of Ontario Racing is to provide the industry a voice for leadership in shaping their future. As we move forward, build capacity and establish governance structures, we will have the skills and tools we need to effectively listen to industry participants and provide that leadership.
Our task is to transition from viewing horse racing participants as stakeholders, as within the ORC model, to serving them as shareholders.
Ontario Racing is a step forward in the horse racing industry’s ability to direct its future. While there have been growing pains, the effort will be worthwhile. Getting Ontario Racing off the ground has required partnership with the government and, more importantly, the patience and trust of everyone in horse racing.
I thank you for your patience, and I restate my commitment to continuing to communicate with you as this process unfolds.
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