Council shows support for the horse racing industry

By Karen Fallon

Deputy Mayor Ron Sutherland asked council to support the request by the Town of Fort Erie to petition the Province of Ontario to maintain its support of the horse racing industry.

As part of Sutherland’s motion he asked that the province reverse their decision to divert funding away from Ontario’s horse racing industry at the expense of communities such as Windsor and Essex County.

An open letter from the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association sent to the town noted that 80 per cent of the industry’s expenditures occurred in rural communities, with  “an estimated 60,000 jobs per year are attributed to the horse racing and breeding industry.”

According to the OHRIA: “It is imperative that the industry’s share of the slot revenue be maintained,” to ensure viability and economic spin-off in the local municipal economy.

Sutherland says he believes the recent decision by the Liberal Party of Ontario is to lay the foundation for a new casino in Toronto.

“A new Toronto casino comes at the expense of jobs at Windsor raceway and other race facilities across Ontario,” said Sutherland. “The next wave of economic devastation will come at the opening of the Toronto casino which will have a direct impact on casinos in Windsor and Niagara Falls.”

Councillor Carolyn Davies says she is “particularly disturbed by this decision by the provincial government.’

“It doesn’t make sense that the government would shut down a part of  a community’s gaming industry that is making money only because the Windsor casino isn’t doing quite as well.

The racetrack will be at risk if the slots go down, warns Davies.

The issue, says Mayor Wayne Hurst, is the impact the move will have on the rural economy by the demise of live horse racing.

“We have several farms in this area that provide straw, provide hay and that is what is going to hit this region in a variety of ways,” said Hurst. “We don’t want to lose sight of the importance of this particular job in our rural community.

The absence of the slots at the Windsor Raceway will be the “death knell of live horse racing,” says Hurst.

Council agreed with Sutherland’s motion and directed administration to send a letter to the Premier, and also the leaders of the opposition, AMO and other municipalities in the region to help garner support.

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