Lambton County to appeal decision to close Hiawatha Slots, will take matter directly to Dalton McGuinty

Lambton County Council announced this week that it will appeal the provincial gaming agency's recent decision to close Hiawatha Slots.

The resolution to formally protest the OLG decision was reached during county council's budget meeting where it was agreed that they would appeal the decision directly to Premier Dalton McGuinty.

A call to the premier’s office about the county’s intention to appeal the decision to close Hiawatha Slots has not yet been returned.

Council said it wants to discuss the shortcomings of the decision to close Hiawatha Slots with the premier's office and shed light on the detrimental impact the closure will have on the community.

When the decision to close the local slots facility was handed down last week, Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said he felt the closure would have a negative effect on the community.

Local MPP Bob Bailey said he commends both Lambton and Sarnia councils for their collective stand on the closure issue and supports their intention to lobby Premier McGuinty's office for a reversal of the closure.

Bailey called the racetrack program across the province "very successful" and said the move to end it will have a detrimental effect on up to 60,000 people currently employed in various industries that are connected to or direct benefit from the program.

"The decision to end the Slots program is unfair and those industries affected should have been given much more notice to give them time to plan and make the necessary adjustments," said Bailey.

This week, the Ontario branch of the National Farmers Union also strongly came out against the province's plan to end the Slots at Racetracks program.

In a letter sent to Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, the NFU urged him to continue the revenue sharing agreement with the horse racing industry because of the economic benefits it provides to farmers and to rural communities.

"The loss of the horse racing industry could lead to the loss of important businesses and services in rural communities like feed mills and farriers, along with the loss of income to farmers who sell hay, grain and straw to the horse industry," said Ontario NFU Coordinator Ann Slater, who added that the horse racing industry is an important source of income for rural communities which host race tracks and benefit from the tourism and entertainment dollars spent in rural businesses.

Brian Griffith, an NFU member and farmer who sells hay to race tracks, agreed. "The Ontario Government should be looking for ways to increase the sustainability of horse racing with its economic, cultural and historic contributions to the fabric of Ontario rather than sounding its death knell which is surely what the removal of revenue sharing will do."

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