For the 99 per cent who have no understanding or sympathy for the horse breeding and racing industry, I will explain the connection between the Flamboro Downs slot machines and any future casino in Hamilton and the province’s slaughterhouses overwhelmed with horses destined for meat markets in Europe.
There are an estimated 325,000 to 350,000 horses in the province of Ontario. Race horses and international show horses make up less than 10 per cent of this number, at around 30,000 horses. But they are the core of the horse breeding industry, providing at least 55,000 jobs at stables, tracks and stadiums across the province.
Fourteen years ago, OLG began renting the Flamborough track to house its 800 slot machines. It proved to be an excellent partnership, with 20 per cent of the slots revenue being reinvested in upgrading the facility, increasing prize money and providing extra security for the trainers, breeders and betting public alike. Far from being “in the middle of nowhere,” Flamboro Downs was already an established entertainment destination in an attractive rural setting, minutes from the city, with easy highway access, ample parking and came complete with its own bettors. The money from the slots eventually provided $4.3 million annually for the city coffers.
Suddenly, this spring, without warning or any prior consultation, the government made the devastating announcement that it would be removing the slots from the racetracks. This has already shut down Fort Erie, Sarnia and Windsor and with Toronto’s Woodbine next, it will throw thousands out of work. The breeders and trainers who can have already packed up their horses and fled the province, leaving behind empty farms, stables and, yes, horses for sale. Rather than watch their animals slowly starve to death, they are being forced to sell them for meat. It’s a holocaust and nobody is talking about it. It is as if the Masaratis and Ferraris of the car racing world were being sold for scrap metal.
This profound tragedy is taking place in a province where the rationale is “the deficit” and where secrecy and the refusal to answer the most straightforward questions is the norm. I cannot believe it is just incompetence. What is happening is criminal.