Opinion: Harness horse racing, has its time passed?

by Alison Grant

There are over 19 horse racing tracks in Ontario. There are over 165 000 jobs related to the industry.

Why would the government take out the slots and bring the business to its knees?

Mike Watson, long time horse owner and racer, has an answer, “The government had to put slots in the race tracks 40 years ago because it was the only way they could legalize gambling. They needed horse racing to gamble. Now that it’s legal, there is no need for so many race tracks in their eyes.”

Mike and his wife Jeanette have been in the horse business for over 28 years.

One of their horse, DM Dilinger, captured title of horse of the year in 2000 and was even considered the best race horse in the world for nine months.

It is safe to say, both Mike and Jeanette know the horse industry well.

The deal, roughly 40 years ago, was that a percentage of the slot revenue would pay for purse and horses. Many horse owners make their living off the purse; paying for the gas, vet, etc.

The problem now at the race trracks that there is a lack of government money to upkeep their own system.

With the slots being taken out, the purses will drop drastically and many horse owners won’t be able to keep up with the costs.

So why is the government still going through with it?

Once again, Mike had an answer, “People are given a lot of perks and now that the government can’t keep up these perks, they are subsidizing horse racing. Everyone should be giving something up, not just the horse people.”

If the government cannot step back and give up some of their own perks, the future is looking very uncertain for the race tracks.

“I believe horses will become obsolete in three to four years unless the government decides to do something to help them,” explains Mike,

“There might be some tracks in Toronto that can stay open, but harness horse racing is like baseball. You can’t have the Blue Jays without little league teams training new ball players all the time. You’ve got to have small tracks to have big tracks.”

It will be interesting to see what lies in store for the harness horse racing industry.

Get the Lambton Shield Daily Brief in your inbox:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.