Charles Sousa, Ontario Minister of Finance, and Jeff Leal, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, announced a long-term funding agreement with the horse racing sector in a press conference held Friday afternoon (March 23) at Flamboro Downs.
“Our government recognizes that the horse racing industry is vital to communities across Ontario," said Leal. "That’s why our government remains committed to ensuring long-term sustainability of the horse racing industry and the rural communities that depend on it. This new, collaborative agreement will provide owners, breeders and racetrack operators with the support they need to ensure stability and success for the long term.”
The announcement of the agreement comes five years after the conclusion of the Slots at Racetracks Program, and will see up to $105 million a year set aside for the horse racing sector in the province through 2038.
Standardbred Canada's President & CEO Dan Gall (R) along with OLG President & CEO Stephen Rigby (L) and Minister of Finance Charles Sousa at Friday's announcement
"Our government is committing to a landmark agreement that will support the long-term sustainability of horse racing in Ontario," said Sousa, echoing Leal's commitment to the economic development horse racing provides for many rural communities in the province. "This funding will encourage economic development in rural communities across the province, while giving race tracks and breeders an opportunity to build a strong future for an industry that is central to our heritage.”
The official Ontario Ministry of Finance statement follows:
Ontario is committing to a long-term funding agreement with the horse racing sector, supporting jobs in rural Ontario and strengthening local economies across the province.
The new agreement will provide up to $105 million a year, for 19 years, for the horse racing sector, starting April 1, 2019, plus additional supports for smaller racetracks and those that are experiencing financial shortfalls.
To further help transform the industry and bolster rural communities, Ontario will continue the Enhanced Horse Improvement Program and introduce a new Racetrack Sustainability Innovation Fund, providing up to $6 million over three years, beginning in 2018, to help regional racetracks innovate, diversify and expand revenue sources to ensure the vitality of the industry for generations to come.
The long-term funding agreement will also empower the horse racing industry to work together to make long-term decisions about horse breeding, racing programs, capital investments and hiring. It will include specific measures focused on supporting community racetracks, including operational funding and purses.
Ontario's plan to support care, create opportunity and make life more affordable during this period of rapid economic change includes a higher minimum wage and better working conditions, free tuition for hundreds of thousands of students, easier access to affordable child care, and free prescription drugs for everyone under 25, and 65 or over, through the biggest expansion of medicare in a generation.
• Ontario is home to 15 racetracks — more than any other North American jurisdiction.
• Funding will be administered by Ontario Racing, which is responsible for representing industry interests, making strategic business decisions, and strengthening transparency and accountability.
• The Ontario Racing board will have equal representation of racetracks and horsepeople, with five seats for racetracks, five for horsepeople, including breeders, and an independent chair.
• The new long-term funding agreement will replace the existing Horse Racing Partnership Funding Program.