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Joint Statement To The Standardbred Industry

Published: September 10, 2010 12:14 pm ET

Last Comment: September 15, 2010 5:51 am ET | 17 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

The presidents of the Central Ontario Standardbred Association (COSA), the National Capital Region Harness Horse Association (NCRHHA) and the Ontario Harness Horse Association (OHHA) have issued a joint statement to the industry on the proposed Racing Development & Sustainability Plan.

The letter is as follows.

During the month of August, members of the boards of COSA, OHHA and NCRHHA met separately with John Gallinger and Darryl Kaplan of Standardbred Canada to discuss the recently announced Racing Development and Sustainability Plan.

All of our organizations support the promotion of harness racing in Ontario. While the Standardbred Canada proposal has initiated a worthwhile debate, the withdrawal of significant amounts of money from the purse account for other uses is a dramatic change that requires a far more detailed and focused plan than has currently been presented.

To put things in perspective, the investment being discussed is not a one-time 5% levy on the purse accounts, but rather a multi-year commitment which would be at a minimum in the $35 to $45 million dollar range. Approximately $15-20 million of that amount would be drawn from the WEG purse pool, with the balance to be taken from the purse pools of the other tracks across Ontario.

The magnitude of the funding being sought dictates that there be more than a simple request that horsepeople take a "leap of faith". If the aim is to have the industry as a whole take a more business oriented approach to marketing, the initiative itself should start on that footing. Most importantly, there should be an analysis of the costs and the potential benefits that can be realized by engaging in the proposed marketing initiative.

The funding of a marketing initiative from the purse accounts is one of a number of ideas that could be explored, and possibly adopted, if there is a reasonable prospect of a greater overall return or benefit for the horsepeople. The current state of the Plan proposed by Standardbred Canada does not provide the detail to permit the necessary analysis.

In consideration of the above, we cannot offer our support for the Plan at this time.

Signed by COSA President Bill O'Donnell, OHHA President Don Amos and NCRHHA President Gordon McDonald.

September 15, 2010 - 5:51 amThank GOD for Standardbred

Thank GOD for Standardbred Canada -- at least we have some initiative, support and integrity in the business!! and, as the old saying goes -- UNITED, we stand, and --- DIVIDED, we fall. This still holds TRUE today!

Three cheers to SB CANADA!!! Now all we need is some great leadership.

Just don't let any burned out hospital executive handle the plan.

There must be some high school students out there that have a better concept of financial planning, marketing skills, and accountability.

(ps The only reason I play the SLOTS at all is to support the racing industry, otherwise
this mundane activity is just voluntary taxation)

September 11, 2010 - 5:25 pmYes, horsemen coming out

Pat Martin SAID...

Yes, horsemen coming out united. It is a first. Other than that I must agree with Ralph Sucee. He has said everything I would want to say, except for those who still want to contribute and take less for themselves, just go into news archives (one recently in the Sat. Star.) and see what happens to workers who give up benefits, etc. to save a company and now that they have done this, these companies are giving 6 million dollar bonuses to the top execs. I think there has just been too much of this nonsense and the track owners are just as bad as the heads of these companies. The three associations may be togehter now but they have to be much more proactive and publicize what is happening.For those of you who keep whining about races being fixed, give your heads a shake and look at some of the other sports. Harness is one of the better sports for honesty.

September 11, 2010 - 12:46 pmGreed is a terrible thing. I

Kevin Jones SAID...

Greed is a terrible thing. I say stand pat & let it continue to die a slow death!!!!!That way instead of giving up 5% they will lose 100%. But hey in the short term the drivers trainer etc. will make a little more until the next purse cut because of the dwindling wager.

September 11, 2010 - 12:45 pmORC Framework on Live race

Bruce Irving SAID...

ORC Framework on Live race dates mentioned few initiatives which some are very closely match with Standardbred Canada plan like market research on customer & preferences and joint product research & development, marketing. The horseman groups were part of ORC working advisory group that supported these initiatives.

COSA, OHHA and NCRHHA must get involve and provides alternative funding for these initiatives. Status Quo is not acceptable and these initiatives need to be funded and started sooner than later.

September 11, 2010 - 9:18 amand the revenues continue to

Dave Vicary SAID...

and the revenues continue to spiral downwards while the camps form and roadblocks are erected (for obvious political reasons)...

The RDSP team is willing to devote their energies to tackle this monumental industry challenge. They are building a plan, they are trying to move forward. These organizations can remain in denial and watch their numbers continue to dwindle or get on board and influence the outcome.

September 11, 2010 - 4:48 amThe BIG WINNERS in SLOT-FED

Ralph Sucee SAID...

The BIG WINNERS in SLOT-FED RACING are Governments ($5 BILLION+ take each year, and where does it go?) ... Track Owners (they pocket the equivalent of slot-fed purses EACH YEAR - and where does it go?) ... Drivers & trainers make a much better living than before - their professions are more appealing to new crops of skilled, committed and hungry young horsepeople.

And the OWNER? To many, he/she remains a 'necessary evil', a 'means to an end', the object of scorn - "Treat Owners like mushrooms". Win or lose, Owners take the biggest risk of all, invest (and lose) more than anyone, and higher purses always equates to higher bills.

Who would SUFFER most by the death the horse racing industry? Shouldn't THEY dig into their OWN pockets to GROW it? Why don't we take our collective hands OUT of the Owners' pockets?? Just once.

How about this - FOR EVERY $100.00 A PATRON PLAYS ON THE SLOTS, THE OLG GIVES THE PATRON A $10.00 BETTING VOUCHER ON HORSE RACING?? Give something back to the slot gambler ... introduce him/her to horse racing ... raise interest and Handle and create fans (Gov't will get 'their' money back, Government-style - into one pocket, out of the other).

Horse Racing will sell itself because it's GREAT entertainment. But people have to know it exists. And by and large - they don't. So, why not start with the Slotters?

Track Owners have become multi-millionaires overnight, stuffing their pockets with slot losses from families across Ontario. 'Let's build a hotel ... a golf course ... or a car racetrack'. HOW ABOUT TRACK OWNERS BEING REQUIRED TO INVEST 5%-10% OF THEIR 'TAKE' ON TV, RADIO, NEWSPAPER ADVERTISING, BUS PROMOS, DRAWS, TRIPS, FAMILY BBQ DAYS, WOMENS DAYS, COLLEGE DAYS, HIPPY DAYS, ROCK DAYS, COUNTRY DAYS. (I could imagine a 'promo-a-day' for a year - and so could you)

Harness Racing is a GREAT and HISTORIC sport. But the general population doesn't know it exists ... right in their own backyards. If we can't race down Yonge Street - let's race into their HD living room. But let's do it as a Business Investment from our own pockets - not from the pockets of people who already poor Billions into the sport (Owners & Gamblers) every year.

September 10, 2010 - 9:34 pmLet's be realistic, If

Let's be realistic,
If you want the sport to survive, which I certainly believe it can. The bigger markets are going to have to provide a bigger piece of the pie, in order to sustain the smaller markets. Are the smaller markets necessary for the bigger markets to exist? Long term, I say absolutely "yes".
Let's not fight about everything, splitting hairs isn't really going to improve the situation. We need to get everyone on board and make this a team effort. If all parties involved can get on the same page, not only do I believe the industry can survive, but it can be prosperous.
Just my thoughts

September 10, 2010 - 7:16 pmThere are only two groups

There are only two groups that matter in all of this: THE OWNER (they pay the bills) & THE GAMBLER (I have not seen anything proposed to help the gambler: ie. lower takeout like Tioga Downs has down)... what groups don't matter: the driver (the sport never runs out of drivers), not the associations & those sucking a living from the OWNERS & GAMBLERS (neither group is there enough of which is what is causing the problems)...

September 10, 2010 - 4:42 pmI have been a fan of harness

I have been a fan of harness racing for almost 40 years and have recently become an owner. Until becoming an owner, I was not exposed to the extreme amount of politics involved behind the scenes and between the various interest groups involved with the sport.

By now, I am sure we are all familiar with the potentially devastating issues facing the industry. In my opinion, the discussion has been focussed on the SYMPTOMS, not the PROBLEM. The real problem is that "nobody is looking after the store". Each of the departments is busy looking after their own interests and there is nobody looking after the business.

It appears that each department now recognizes the symptoms. The problem can only be solved by recognizing the need and finding a way to put in place a body representing the interests of all industry participants to look after the business of horse racing. Until that problem is solved, the symptoms cannot and will not be taken care of.

September 10, 2010 - 4:30 pm"Leap of faith" - As

"Leap of faith" - As informal as the term may seem, it does accurately describe our response if we were to say OK to the plan as is. I dont think anyone SC or otherwise, expects us to give the green light tomorrow to any spending. It is an idea only, a good one at that, none of the associations want to veto it, they just want proof of its effectiveness before relinquishing the dollars. What is to say that associations can't immediately begin moving a % over to an account dedicated to "marketing and development" - dont use it yet, just save it (by the way "sustainability" means to keep something as is at its current level or quality; not what anyone is looking for I hope). The simple wealth building formula is "pay yourself first".

Three associations working together while representing horsemen - impressive. Keep it up b/c I really dont want to have to go claim quarter horses any time soon.

September 10, 2010 - 4:26 pmTo Mr. Robinski, why should

John Carter SAID...

To Mr. Robinski, why should you expect the horse people and race tracks to care about the customers now, they never had in the past so why should we expect such radical change now. Imagine people like me wanting things like a fair track takeout and honest racing. Other then pound the races for over 20 years and contribute to there purse pools what have i done for them to even suggest i should be giving a fair shake.

September 10, 2010 - 3:25 pmWow! Horseman groups doesn`t

Bruce Irving SAID...

Wow! Horseman groups doesn`t support the plan. That`s fine but COSA,OHHA and NCRHHA must provides the alternatives to the Development and Sustainability plan. Sometimes in 2010 not 2011 or 2012.

My view is that Status Quo is unacceptable and we need urgent plan to address the looming wagering issues.

By the way, I totally agreed with Dean Towers statement.

September 10, 2010 - 2:58 pmI do not read anything

Dean Towers SAID...

I do not read anything proactive, or alternative in this press release. I wonder if I may ask Messrs O'Donnell, MacDonald and Amos: What is it that you propose to get racing back on track? I just see a rejection in the press release.

If you believe it is a "leap of faith" to build a plan to increase wagering in the province, how is it not a leap of faith for myself as a horse owner to believe that doing nothing now will change the trend of massive falling handles and purses in our Province?

I am all for opinion and alternatives, however I see none in this press release. If you have ideas, won't you share them with us?

I remember back in the 1990's when analysts were advising newspapers to do something with a slice of their revenues. They were being warned that readership was falling and would continue to fall if they did not take a slice of their revenue and do something. Who knows, they could possibly have built the next Craigslist, or Zillow or Yelp - the table was set for it with their infrastructure. They said similar "not at this time because it is a leap of faith"

Sometimes leaps of faith are needed. You are asking us as horse owners to reject a plan, by taking a leap of faith. SC is asking us to take a similar leap of faith, but at least they offer us something to look at.

What are you offering us other than the status quo? I would like to hear the details, because no is simply not a policy I can support in our sport any longer.


September 10, 2010 - 2:16 pmFinally some comment from

Finally some comment from the 3 organizations!!! I feel we all agree something needs to be done within the industry but not the way it has been proposed. After attending the latest meeting,there is NO substantial direction being showed where this money is going or how this ( mil per year has been arrived at. Furthermore the theory of the presenters trust us there will be full transperancy is not professional in anyway. The excuse of rushing this through because of a timeline that has been created does not wash. DO IT PROPERLY FROM THE BEGINNING!!even if it takes longer to do.
It like a new restraunt opening next week but no chef has been hired and no menu is written..just open up the doors and we will decide what to do. That does not work,have a PROPER BUSINESS PLAN to present,not a story on why we should put this money in.

As to Wayne"s comment, I did ask the question...SHOULD the committee being formed not include the CUSTOMER or potential customer? I was told this was discussed amoungst the board but they did not feel it was necesaay at this time. WHAT KIND OF ANSWER IS THAT? WE NEED THE CUSTOMER INVOLVED RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING!!! as well as support from the tracks.

To give up 5% for what has been proposed is ludicrous. Why are the negative responses from these meeting not being shown in the SB site only those people who are agreeing have articles been written?

I hope SB does not block or take anything out of these comments and it is posted.

Those who have signed should really take a look into the DETAILS of what they HAVE SIGNED a petition for, because to many of us it is very unclear how this number came to be, where is it being used , for what period of time this will be reviewed to measure its success(or unsuccess),if theracetracks are onside(because if they are not this money is being wasted,customers will still be treated like garbage) AND are we really in agreement with the full committee just being Standardbred Canada directors??????? NOT ME

September 10, 2010 - 1:41 pmI'm impressed by the fact

Lynne Magee SAID...

I'm impressed by the fact that these three organizations are all on the same page regarding this issue and have released a "joint statement to the industry". That, in itself, is a promising change in the right direction. Noting that they have stated that they "cannot offer our support for the Plan at this time", it would seem that they are still open to a more carefully thought out plan of attack. As horsepeople, most of us agree that a change is necessary in order for the industry to survive and to grow. If Standardbred Canada cannot get the support of these three representational groups and the majority of the membership, I would think that it is time to go back to the drawing board!
As to Mr. Robinski's statement, I believe that "if there is a reasonable prospect of a greater overall return or benefit for the horsepeople." is the correct quote and is referring to the possibility of the adoption of such a plan if it were more detailed. The horsepeople are very much aware that they/we are losing the bettors to other attactions and that adjustments need to be made to compete for those participants and to attract new ones.

September 10, 2010 - 1:38 pmWow! Horsemen coming out

Wow! Horsemen coming out united! What a great first step. Horsemen are being asked to take this great leap of faith, but what of the other stake holders like the tracks themselves? WEG does it's fair share of advertising and promoting the sport, but does Ontario's other racetracks? The answer is " NO " ! I am a devoted fan of the great sport we call Harness Racing, not an owner, trainer, driver or groom, and I can tell you that the vast majority of Ontario's racetracks only care about one thing, SLOTS! The fans and horsepeople be damned! Customer service, a thing of the past. I have even had supposedly highly respected racetrack managers tell me, " if I could do away with the mutuels I would, because I lose money on them every night" and " I wish I only had to race once a year ". With these kinds of attitudes, the sport is destined to fail. Remember folks, one these days, the Government under pressure from an over taxed general population, is going to wake up and pull the slots gravy train out of our station, and sail it down the track to health care, education, roads etc. Until all stake holders are ready to take some of the pain necessary, the plan is a non-starter. Again, my tip of the hat to the horsemen's associations for their united front!

September 10, 2010 - 12:26 pmNote the term "a greater

Note the term "a greater return or benefit to the horsepeople". The same old self interest and greed and worse that has helped destroy the Industry. No mention of their alleged "customers" of course!! And they wonder why!!

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