As It Relates to Horse Racing

Undesirable government and politicians not limited to America


Being a newspaper editor in Alabama provides me with terrific opportunities to see the crookedness and stupidity of politicians and the incompetent practices of government. One of our former Governors shut down a racing facility that had charity electronic bingo, at the point of a gun, after he took campaign money from an Indian Tribe outside our state, an obvious competitor to the Alabama-based business he shut down. The bottom line is that we saw a facility shut down and hundreds of people in one of our poorest counties out of work. Furthermore, it eliminated a tourism draw that brought thousands in from Georgia every year.

That’s the way we do it down here. The tools are dishonesty, stupidity, greed and an inexplicable desire to make many lives miserable by forcing them into unemployment, usually for political reasons.

It looks like some of those tools have migrated north of the border to Canada, specifically the province of Ontario.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me say that my favorite race track is Woodbine, the gem of thoroughbred racing in Canada. No, I’ve never been there. But like many Americans who play the races via Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) I have the opportunity to play Woodbine frequently, and I love the track.

This year the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) announced the termination of the contract it has with Ontario race tracks for the tracks to house slot machine facilities. The OLG, which is actually an arm of the provincial government of Ontario, wants to dump the tracks and build its own facilities, but most importantly take money away from the tracks. This is after the tracks changed their lives years ago to accommodate the slot machine business and since then have pretty much done all the work and paid to maintain it. This past week the OLG went to Ft. Erie race track and padlocked the machines. This is while the track is still operational. Why? Ft. Erie still has plenty of racing this season and to padlock the machines is like saying you do not want money the machines can generate. Stupid. Of course, Ft. Erie has already announced it will go ahead and close after 115 years of business due to the move of the OLG. More jobs, community pride, history and all other good things down the drain.

This past week Woodbine held one of the oldest and most prestigious races in North America, The Queen’s Plate. For those of you not familiar with it, the race is kind of like our Kentucky Derby.  It’s a fantastic race with a great history. Woodbine announced just a few days before the race that his may be the last Queen’s Plate because of the actions of the OLG. Woodbine leadership also stated clearly that day to day racing could be in danger, and not just the stakes program, because of the OLG.

Since the OLG is actually the governments gaming agency the race tracks are at a double disadvantage. Woodbine’s CEO said it best, “How are we expected to compete when the referee is also our opponent?”

Don’t forget the extensive damage that will be done to the Canadian thoroughbred breeding business after OLG finishes execution of its mandate.

I look at my home state (and others) and I look at what has happened in Ontario and I see the same problems; the ruination of people, businesses and our economy. Just look at the government and the politicians and you see the problem. I’m sure the culprits are dishonesty, stupidity, greed, and yes, somewhere someone wants to hurt someone else.

Too bad this has to happen to racing in a great racing location like Ontario. The only advice I can give to the people of Ontario is to prepare for the next election and run these officials out of Canada. Just don’t send them down here. We already have enough just like them.

Handicapper Art Parker — Art Parker is a frequent contributer to A Game of




From earlier this year (February 2012)

HANA made this statement in their [February] newsletter:

Officials in Pennsylvania, New York and Ontario (Canada) have been making noise lately about cutting off slots subsidies to racetracks.  Anyone who has spent any time at racinos knows that in just about all of them, the racing is an afterthought to the big money that is to be made from slots.  And, more and more, it appears the companies that own the racinos are keeping racing alive only because they are mandated to by the state.  If subsidies are cut or eliminated–as seems likely in the near future–expect to see date cuts for the races, and possibly the disappearance of some tracks.  — HANA

“Over the past few decades, an explosion in gambling opportunities and increased competition for leisure dollars have reduced horse racing to a small, cult sport. It would have already faded into oblivion in many small centres, including Fort Erie, if the province had not introduced slot machines at racetracks. A significant percentage of the money that sad sacks chronically lose at the slots goes to subsidize the host track.

Neither the province nor the Drummond report has any problem with sad sacks continuing to lose their shirts by mindlessly depositing tokens in machines. Indeed, the report recommends creating more opportunities for people to gamble away their earnings.

However, the Drummond team does suggest there might be more deserving recipients of the province’s slice of this pie than just the horse racing industry.”

Latest Update: Woodbine States that their Future is in Doubt

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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