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Tropea: Taxes Don't Fund Racing


Published: February 22, 2012 4:08 pm ET

Last Comment: February 26, 2012 1:51 am ET | 10 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

After a successful Queen's Park rally on Wednesday, February 22, which saw roughly 25 MPPs in attendance, Ontario Harness Horse Association General Manager Brian Tropea took to the airwaves to spread the truth regarding Ontario's slots-at-racetracks program.

Tropea was given the opportunity to go live on air on 570 News and have a brief discussion about the controversial topic with afternoon call-in host Gary Doyle.

In addition to clearing up multiple misconceptions regarding the economically-successful slots-at-racetrack program, Tropea explained that the 500-600 horse-racing industry participants that attended Wednesday's rally helped create one of the largest Queen's Park demonstrations that the MPPs have seen.

The Ontario Liberal Government has stated that it would like to either alter or cut the economically-successful slots-at-racetracks program, which allows the government to take in more than $1-billion in annual revenue, in order to address its provincial deficit.

CBC News Reports On Queen's Park Rally

Year-in and year-out, the Ontario horse racing industry has proven to be nothing but an economic boon for the province of Ontario. The province receives $261 million a year directly from the horse racing industry and its participants. The Ontario horse-racing industry employs 60,000 Ontarians and sees a total of $1.5-billion in wages and salaries sustained annually from total expenditures from the Ontario horse racing and breeding industry.

The Ontario horse-racing industry annually receives a combined 20 per cent of revenue from slot machines at racetracks under the agreement. The slot machines housed within the walls of racetracks have been in direct competition with the tracks' own racing product.

In addressing its desire to renege on its slots-at-racetracks agreement with the Ontario horse-racing industry, the Liberal Government has chosen to repeatedly misconstrue the business relationship between the two entities as a 'subsidy,' to which those educated in the topic realize is not accurate in any way, shape or form.

"It isn't a subsidy," Tropea told Doyle. "For Duncan (Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan) to say that is offensive... it's an arrangement that the government made with racing."

Tropea told Doyle and his listeners that roughly 25 MPPs, both opposition PC and NDP, attended the rally.

Doyle asked if the Ontario Harness Horse Association has made any headway with the Liberals MPPs. "We've got until the budget to do that," said Tropea, hopeful that people take the time to examine the economic impact of Ontario's horse racing industry and realize the catastrophic nature of what those cuts could mean to the province.

The Ontario horse-racing industry as a whole also accounts for $2-billion in annual expenditures, which is up 67 per cent from the year 2000.

During the call-in show, Tropea specifically directed one of his comments to the listening public. "Not one cent of your tax dollars has ever gone to subsidize racing."

The horse-racing industry is the second largest sub-sector of Ontario's agricultural economy, with an economic contribution in excess of wheat, eggs, poultry and hogs in 2010.

February 26, 2012 - 1:51 amPlease email every PC, MPP

Please email every PC, MPP The McGuinty Government have 53 seats in the Provincial Legislature and the PC and NDP have 54 so if this industry can get both, the PC and NDP on our side and all of their parties votes, this will not happen. They need to get their leader Tim Hudak to come out in support of this industry which as of now he has not done !!

As of now, Hudak has refused to speak out against the Liberals and their plans to break the slot agreement even though some of his 37 MPPS have attended the rally at Queens Park and have been very outspoken in support of the horseracing industry. We need to get him onboard and to get all his party behind the industry.

Tim Hudak, who has criticized the Liberals for cherrypicking from Drummond's 362 recommendations, wouldn't say where the party stands on revenue sharing with the horse racing industry. "If you're asking me again if I'm going to get into the weeds and talk about 362 one-offs, no," he said.

3 years ago Hudak was up in arms when they were trying to close Fort Erie and this is a copy of his interview.

The Fort Erie Racetrack was a topic of discussion.

On Tuesday, the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) was called before the Standing Committee on Government Agencies to discuss its mandate, and how the thoroughbred racing industry in Ontario will deal with certain challenges in the future, specifically dealing with what would happen to slot revenues if racing was discontinued at the Fort Erie Racetrack and Belleville Racetrack Slots.

Niagara West- Glanbrook Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) Tim Hudak, along with another Conservative MPP from the Ottawa area Lisa McLeod challenged the Liberal provincial government about an agreement formalized over a decade ago, stating slots at horse-racing facilities in Ontario were only created to improve financial struggles within the racing industry.

Currently, the province receives 80 per cent of slot revenues, The Town of Fort Erie gets 10 per cent, and the track owners Nordic Gaming also take in 10 per cent from slot funds.

Hudak, who was also born and raised in Fort Erie, says if the Racetrack does end up closing, the slots facility should do the same. Otherwise, he feels the provincial government will take in even more revenue than they do already from the facility.

No horses, no slots," stated MPP Hudak.

"When the PC government instituted the Slots-At-Racetracks initiative, the presence of the machines was tied to an ongoing horse racing program. I worry the McGuinty government will allow Fort Erie Racetrack to fail and pocket all of the slot revenues for themselves."

Hudak said he is hopeful the track will remain in business, pending an approval from the province on the Fort Erie Economic Development Corporation (EDTC)'s proposal to operate the track as a non-profit organization.

Not only is the Fort Erie Racetrack important to Hudak because he grew up in Fort Erie, but also because he realizes the detrimental impact the demise of the facility will have on the local economy, especially since it isn't just the horse-racing industry that will be affected.

"The closure of the Fort Erie Racetrack would cause major job losses not only in Fort Erie, but throughout the Niagara region, including impacts on the agricultural sector," said Hudak.

Niagara Falls- Fort Erie MPP Kim Craitor said the Liberal provincial government doesn't plan on keeping all the remaining slot revenues to themselves, if the track does not see a racing season in 2009.

"No, that's not the case," said Craitor.

He said right now his first priority with the Fort Erie Racetrack is keeping it open. When the time arrives for the provincial government to act on whether the slots will remain in business, he wil have more to comment on.

"Right now my main focus is keeping the track going," said Craitor

Gary Blackburn

February 24, 2012 - 11:29 pmUnfortunately it has become

Unfortunately it has become apparent to me that that our message is not getting to the right people, the average “Joe”.
While I am no longer directly involved in horse racing I am still very passionate about an industry that I grew up and spent most of my life in. When I talk to people that I work with and try to explain the workings of the “Slots-at-racetrack program” they still don’t “get it” and wonder why the government needs to support racing. That one word “ Subsidy” has done more direct harm to this industry than any perception of drug use, race fixing or any other “integrity” issue in my lifetime.
We are fantastic at preaching to each other. The rally at Queens Park was excellent and the turnout was great but other than a few news clips and radio sound bites no one outside of our industry knows we were there. I listened to Brian Tropea on the Gary Doyle show on 570 News and Brian did a fantastic job of explaining things but it was apparent in listening to the callers afterwards that most people just don’t “get it”. Politicians are masters of the 15 second sound bite and no one is going to beat Dalton McGuinty at that game. We can write to politicians all day long but in the end most are self-serving or are going to tow the party line.
We need to get the word out to the guy on the street. How? All of the various associations OHHA, COSA, OHRIA, OFA etc. need to come together on this issue and mobilize your members! Get information sheets on every windshield at every shopping mall, every movie theatre, every hockey rink and anywhere else you can think of. Get information booths up at every farmers market, trade show and event in your area. Especially in our urban areas. Above all, Take the time to talk to your friends and neighbours and explain what a success our program has been and how it has been a model for saving the industry in jurisdictions south of the border and what happened in Quebec when racing couldn’t compete with government competition from other forms of gambling. Only when the world outside of ours understands our plight and realizes that they are not taxed to support racing are the politicians going to take notice.
Today I read an excellent letter written by Blair Burgess to Halton Region MPP Ted Chudleigh in which Blair outlines the negative impact that implementation of the recommendations in the Drummond report would have on Halton Region. Please, Please, Please! Blair get that letter as a full page ad in every print and online publication in the area. Everyone else, fill up the” letters to the editor” mailbox at your local newspaper. We have to get the word OUT! Once people understand the truth. The liberals will have no power to even think about touching the slots-at-racetrack program.

February 24, 2012 - 9:02 amRural Ontario will be

Lynne Magee SAID...

Rural Ontario will be affected if the cuts to racing go through. The urban areas of Ontario will feel that affect as the unemployed move into the cities to find jobs that aren't there. Other recommendations from the Drummond report are going to drastically affect both rural and urban societies. City folk may not be too concerned with our plight but they sure as heck should be with the other issues that Mr. Drummond has addressed. Hopefully, they will be calling their MPPs with their concerns. If the budget doesn't get the support that is needed, the government could be walking on thin ice.

As I see it, Mr. Drummond was hired to scare the pants off the citizens of Ontario by telling them (CBC radio) that Ontario is on the road to the same situation that Greece is experiencing. This is a politically driven move by the Liberal government in an attempt to regain rural votes lost in the last election. Hopefully, it backfires on them. Hiring Mr. Drummond, who apparently made a 20 billion dollar miscalculation on a federal report, may have been their first mistake.

February 23, 2012 - 3:56 pmJust like to repeat everyone

Just like to repeat everyone an say great job Tropea. Was glad to see the fantastic turnout not just people but trucks and trailers. Hopefully Mr Duncan takes a good hard long look at our industry an its importance. Lets keep the pressure on the government boys and girls.

Mike Sinclair

February 23, 2012 - 10:32 amI was surprised and very

I was surprised and very pleased to hear so many Conservative and NDP members pledge their support.Let's hope they can do whatever it takes to change this terrible idea the Liberal government is considering.

February 23, 2012 - 1:08 amGreat to see Brian and OHHA

Donna Wright SAID...

Great to see Brian and OHHA Directors getting the support they need everyone should stick together and get the information out to the public and keep the media involved. So many lives will be affected if Dwight Duncan and McGunity Government do not listen to the people of Ontario

February 22, 2012 - 8:46 is running this

bill gemmill SAID... is running this story: Horse racing industry fears end of slot revenue

comments are allowed and needed

February 22, 2012 - 7:45 pmVery impressed by the

Very impressed by the turnout today. I think this was the effort of many, but like most horsemen and woman they pat others on the back. From our region a special thank you to Dave Gibson who did an excellent job. Thank you very much to Brian, Jody and Anthony for speaking out as well as all the MPP's

February 22, 2012 - 6:18 pmI thought the turn out was

I thought the turn out was good and the speakers did an excellent job..The correct information was given and hopefully Ontario government will take notice and do the right thing.I also want to say congrats and thank you to Brian Tropea for doing a unbelievable job of organizing this rally as well as the OHHA directors.. I heard Brian has been working with very little sleep to get this rally done.. Thanks Brian Very much appreciated by all I am sure.. Stuart Cochrane

February 22, 2012 - 4:53 pmWay to go guys, lets keep it

Geoff Maltby SAID...

Way to go guys, lets keep it going. To anyone that has not called their MPP please do so asap.

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