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Slots at Racetracks Program

For information and a suggested course of action regarding the fight for the Ontario Horse Industry PLEASE check the value4money.ca web-site. We all need to do our part-sign a petition, write/call your MPP, write/call the NDP leader Andrea Horwath.


RACING FUTURE - http://www.racingfuture.com/

The Quebec Experience

OHRIA Submission, June 6, 2012

Ottawa Life August 2012


Glenn Sikura Interview With The Motts Part 1

Glenn Sikura Interview With The Motts Part 2


Presentation made to the sub-comittee at the Ontario Legislature-June 07, 2012

CANADIAN THOROUGHBRED HORSE SOCIETY (ONTARIO DIVISION)

The Chair (Mr. Bob Delaney): Our next presentation is going to be the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society (Ontario division): Glenn Sikura. Please sit down; make yourselves comfortable.

Mr. Glenn Sikura: Thank you very much.

The Chair (Mr. Bob Delaney): You’ve been here for a little while so I gather you know the ground rules. You’ve got 10 minutes to make your presentation; there will be up to five minutes for questioning. This round of questioning will come from the government side. Please begin by stating your names for Hansard and continue.

Mr. Glenn Sikura: My name is Glenn Sikura. I’m the president of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society. To my left is Julie Coulter, general manager of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society, and to my right is Pete Berringer, first vice-president.

I will go as quickly as possible. It’s hard to cram my 52 years of existence into 10 minutes, but I’ll do my best.

We are the body that represents the interests of those within the province that supply racehorses for Woodbine Racetrack and formerly Fort Erie Race Track, which it was announced has closed as of yesterday.

My history: I’ve been involved in the horse industry since graduating from the University of Guelph in 1981. I was raised on a family farm prior to that, so essentially my entire life has been on a horse farm. The horse industry is my sole source of revenue. My family, like some 60,000 other Ontario families, has a long history in a business that is steeped with tradition and is part of the fabric of this nation.

This weekend, history could be made, as a Canadian owner has a horse competing for the American Triple Crown, a feat that has not been successfully completed since 1978. In just a few weeks, the largest day in Canadian racing will take place: the running of the 153rd consecutive Queen’s Plate.

Amidst these and many other Ontario success stories that have occurred recently lies an ominous black cloud. The announcement of the cancellation of the slots-at-racetracks program has sent our entire industry into a state of disbelief, shock and outrage.

The Ontario-government-commissioned Drummond report clearly did not call for an annihilation of the single most profitable Ontario Lottery and Gaming program in existence. Rather, Mr. Drummond called for a review of the slots-at-racetracks program to ensure that the government was receiving “value for money.” Based on this standard, the program can only be judged as a massive success, the most successful recipient of which is the Ontario government. Municipalities and the highly labour-intensive horse industry are clearly also beneficiaries.

In spite of the fact that we represent a multi-billion-dollar industry, the government has proceeded with a scorched-earth policy which will decimate us. There was a promise of meaningful consultation with the horse industry, a vital segment of the provincial economy, and that promise has not been kept.

The current vision of the government is a massive and unpopular gamble. While there appear to be no facts to sustain the economics of the proposed new direction of gaming within the province, there are volumes of information supporting the value that the Ontario horse racing industry brings to the government and to society at large. Even members of Mr. McGuinty’s own government have espoused our virtues previously, as have many of the annual reports produced by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming commission.

In our industry, we project winners based on past performance. This is a sound business principle as well. Through our facilities, our infrastructure, our cross-promotion and, most importantly, our customers, the Ontario government has had a highly successful 14-year partnership that takes place daily in a historically and socially accepted location. In horseplayers’ parlance, we refer to ourselves as chalk—that’s a heavy favourite. Plain and simple, slots at racetracks have by far outperformed other OLG products. The horse racing industry is a major reason for this fruitful outcome. Our industry is dumbstruck that the partnership has been cancelled. There can truly be no reasonable expectation that the $1.1 billion that flows annually to government through this program can be replaceable. Certainly it is impossible in the short term and highly risky, at best, in the long term. That poses a severe risk to the many social programs that are currently funded through this form of income generation.

By now, the facts of our economic contribution should be well known: 60,000 jobs, $2 billion in annual expenditures, $1.5 billion in wages and salaries. What all of you should be aware of is the following: The Ontario thoroughbred breeding industry has outperformed every jurisdiction in North America over the last few years. We have seen growth and we’ve seen massive investment of private dollars injected into a mostly stagnant Ontario economy. We have improved our product, which has resulted in more wagering and greater exports. Both government and industry are the beneficiaries of this success.

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In 2011, our premier sale saw 44% of the gross expenditures come from out-of-province buyers. While we’re succeeding at bringing a vast positive net investment from those outside of our province, we sit in fear that our future is going to be sold out to foreign gaming interests. There is no plausible explanation as to how the province is financially better served in this scenario.

The most significant concern is whether or not the horse racing industry survives on parimutuel handle alone. We sincerely believe that it cannot. This is by no means to suggest that we have not been proactive in developing and modernizing our business, and I’ve listed some of the changes.

With our major competitor also being our regulator, we are clearly disadvantaged. Costs in our industry and the degree of labour intensity may work against our efficiencies, but they’re clearly of major benefit to the province’s economy.

Because of the Ontario government’s slots cancellation, the breeding industry is currently fraught with uncertainty. Already, the effects of this far-too-hasty decision are taking a devastating toll on all of us. Many 2012 stallion contracts have been cancelled. Mares, in many cases, have not been bred back. Some breeders have opted out of the province, leaving farm owners with empty stalls, and staff and family members unemployed or underemployed. Mare owners are divesting in this jurisdiction and spending money elsewhere. And 2013 will only be worse without appropriate action.

A lessened foal crop in the upcoming years will lead to smaller field sizes at racetracks, which in turn leads to decreased wagering, and so the death spiral will continue.

Values of horse farms have plummeted as the economics of participation in our industry have been quashed. In spite of this, the debt load to owners remains, thus leaving the very real possibility that many may lose their properties.

There is no possible way for the breeding industry to react in the government’s 12-month time frame. The breeding cycle requires long-term investment. Between purchase of the mare, gestation and marketing of the foal, the breeding sector has been left to perish.

We aren’t here, cap in hand, looking for transitional funding. We’ve had and we need to have a viable strategy to ensure that our livelihoods are not taken away from us.

The breeding industry has acted in a responsible manner as related to slot income. We ask that government do the same. Residency requirements and a variety of Ontario-bred programs and restrictions ensure appropriate use of the revenue. Any reference otherwise is an unfair characterization.

When our industry dies or is severely contracted, there will inevitably be mass job losses. Many of those job skills that are possessed by our workers will not be transferable to other vocations. This will result in a further strain to the province’s unemployment insurance program and welfare lines.

What becomes of the beloved horses that comprise our industry? You heard previous comment on that, and there’s simply not any way breeders can afford to maintain their foals and their foal crop. When next year’s foal crop begins to hit the ground in January 2013, stallion owners will be sending out their invoices. The stud fees, which would have been set prior to the slots’ cancellation, are clearly not feasible in an environment where our industry is expected to survive with depleted resources.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are not fairly portrayed when referred to as “a small group of wealthy racetrack owners” receiving a “secret subsidy.” In reality, we are 60,000 hard-working Ontarians that include grooms, jockeys, feed suppliers, farmers, veterinarians, blacksmiths, tractor dealerships, truck and trailer dealerships, fence builders, hay and straw suppliers, trainers, bedding suppliers, insurance providers, van companies, tack stores etc.

Any evaluation of the slots-at-racetracks program cannot possibly be complete without taking into account the inevitable damage to Ontario’s vast equine industry. Assuming a realistic net sum accounting is to be completed by government, the only rational conclusion is that a solution must be found as quickly as possible before the horse racing industry becomes a footnote and there is significant damage to the provincial economy.

Yours, respectfully.

The Chair (Mr. Bob Delaney): Mr. Naqvi.

Mr. Yasir Naqvi: Thank you, Mr. Sikura, for coming today and making the presentation. I really noted a comment that you made in your submission that what the industry needs is a viable strategy to ensure that the livelihoods are not taken away, so the need for a strategy of ensuring the industry is self-sufficient and has a bright future in Ontario. Are you supportive of the announcement that was made by the government today in creating a transition panel to study the industry, to work with the industry? The panel is made up of three very reputable people from rural communities here in Ontario, from all three political parties, which could result in a viable strategy for the future of the industry.

Mr. Glenn Sikura: Sir, I’m very respectful and thankful for that, and I think it’s a step in the right direction. The concept that we are transitioning people like myself and Peter and Julie out of jobs—I’m not supportive of that at all. I hope that when we sit down and speak with the representatives of that panel, there will be fruitful discussions, which are long, long overdue, and we can come up with a strategy that doesn’t include quashing any of the 60,000 jobs that are employed in the province through the horse racing industry.

Mr. Yasir Naqvi: So an opportunity exits, I agree, to work together to find a self-sufficient way forward. You talked about some of the new products that have been introduced in the racing industry over the years. Do you think there are opportunities that exist for the industry to develop new racing products in its modernization efforts?

Mr. Glenn Sikura: One of the issues is that you, the government, regulate us and you compete against us. So I would have to throw part of that back to you. We have the opportunity to create other parimutuel bets that may be popular with people. If there are table games, if there are other things that are allowed at racetracks, then we have an opportunity to compete. But if our hands are tied behind our backs and we’re thrown against direct competition with no means of competing against that other than parimutuel wagering, I think the death knell of the horse industry has been made.

Mr. Yasir Naqvi: Okay, great. Thank you very much for your submission. I really appreciate it.

Mr. Glenn Sikura: Thank you, sir.


Letter to the Minister of Finance, February 14, 2012

If you would like to express your concerns about this situation please contact the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association at ohria@ohria.com.

Dear Minister Duncan-

I can't help but express my grave concerns over statements made by you yesterday. I am 52 years old and the horse business has been my only source of revenue since graduating from the University of Guelph in 1981.

At no point would I ever have thought of the slots at racetracks program as a "subsidy". The partnership that was created between government and the horse breeding and racing industry has been a model arrangement and is heralded throughout North America. 75% of revenues go to the provincial government, 5% to the municipalities and only 20% goes back to the horse business which is split between 3 breeds, 18 racetracks and countless horse owners and breeders. The monies that have been retained by the horse industry have resulted in dramatic investment within the province by both horse people and racetracks alike. If these monies don't find their way back to our industry there is no question that you will see the substantial growth and the associated economic benefit to the province quashed instantly.

Here is a rough example of my own investment just last year alone within the PROVINCE OF ONTARIO in 2011-

Veterinary care, trainer, assistant trainer, grooms, hot-walkers, hay and straw delivery, fencing, barn repair, University of Guelph (medical services), Milton Equine Clinic (medical services), stud fees, 2 farm mangers, 5 full time employees, 25 sales employees, tractor and equipment repairs, commissions, van companies, blacksmith, farm co-op, tack shop etc.

This is a small sample of what it takes for just 1 farm owner to be involved in the horse business in Ontario. There are a great many expenses not listed.

An attack on the slots program would be devastating to the rural economy. I would hope that more thought and a great deal of consultation would go in to any decision that has the potential to annihilate a business that supplies 60,000+ jobs to the Ontario economy.

Yours Sincerely,

R. Glenn Sikura
Hill 'N' Dale Farms


Letter to Minister McMeekin from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture
and the Ontario Equestrian Federation, click here (pdf 305KB).






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