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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Could Liberals Be Looking for an Exit Strategy?

There is some hope that the Liberal party in Ontario may be looking for an exit strategy out of their decision to end the Slots at Racetracks program.  From afar, it appears they realize they may have overreached in their attempt to end the program which provides horse racing in the province $345 million a year as part of a revenue sharing program, thanks to racing's refusal to just roll over and die.

Of course, 'Hope' is the operative word.  One tends to hold on to hope when things look bad as it is often the only way to continue on, hoping things get better.  Let's not kid ourselves, those who decided to end the Slots at Racetracks program are no fans of racing and consider the $345 million dollars a subsidy, money which could be spent elsewhere.  They, like the Quebec provincial government before them, feel racing is a lost cause.

Yes, I know subsidy is an objectionable term, racing calls it revenue sharing and I would concur.  However, when the government correctly or incorrectly thinks they can cut racing out of their share of the money and keep it for themselves, one can see how they call it a subsidy.

Let's assume the government realizes they bit of more than they can chew and have decided to get out of this public relations nightmare the best way they can, what mechanism may they use?

One avenue for exiting out of this fiasco is the report of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) which was delivered to the government this past Friday, but yet to be released to the public.  In a column, Murray Ezra reports on the optimism being attached to this report, possibly suggesting a recommendation somewhere between the continuation of the existing slots at tracks program to the other extreme which is the $50 million over three years in transitional aid.

If  racing is to receive a reprieve, people should be realistic and not expect things to go back to the way they were before the OLG announced the end of the slots program.  When it comes to politics, an exit strategy typically requires the ability for both parties to save face.  This means while the doomsday scenario may be averted for now there is a good chance there will still be pain.  Don't expect slots to return where they have already been removed.  Some tracks may still close, purses diminish, racing weakened but at least racing will continue.

As for the opposition parties?  While they may be aligning with racing now, don't expect them to reverse any damage done to racing by the liberals. Perhaps If a temporary solution is proposed, the opposition may extend the length of it, but don't expect much more.

Of course, this is all speculation.  After all, until the report is released, what else is there to do.

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