Day At The Track

Grooms affected by demise of Ontario racing

07:28 AM 02 May 2013 NZST
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Robert Coole
Robert Coole - Working a pacer in his familiar blue and red colours

Ontario horseman Robert Coole is not happy about the slots at racetracks programme being withdrawn from harness racing tracks throughout the Canadian province. In fact the 53-year-old said the demise of racing in Ontario had affected both him and his friends personally.

“I am one of those looking for a job and still trying to help others find places to live because Mohawk closed its backstretch and grooms living area sending 40-plus grooms scrambling to find new places to live. Their dorm closed on April 30th and everyone had to go.

“WEG (Woodbine Entertainment Group) couldn’t care less and COSA (Central Ontario Standardbred association) has agreed with it all.

“There are now only 25 grooms left. The rest have left. They work for a lot of trainers and now they have been forced to find alternative and much more expensive accommodation,” Coole told Harnesslink.

Coole said the end of slots programme was killing the Canadian breeding industry.

“The ORC (Ontario Racing Commission) cuts its race dates at tracks and as a result trainers have had to cut back on horses and grooms losing jobs or getting paid less.

“I'm tired of fighting for respect from government. We signed an agreement in good faith and the partnership worked fine until the government got greedy. They spread lies saying they were giving us subsidies when it was part of an agreement that put $1.1 billion into the provincial coffers that went towards health and education.

“Horsemen's share was 10% and the provincial government received $17 billion since 1999,” a disheartened Coole said.

He was especially saddened because the Ontario slots programme was the “model of fairness” for every programme in North America.

“They got greedy. The Government did crooked deals giving slots to bingo halls that were previously bought by Liberal fundraisers giving the government 25% of profit and operators get 47% - while on the racetrack program slots the Government got 75%,” said Coole, a Sydney (Nova Scotia) native.

He said the bingo halls were bought between November 2011 and March 2012.

“Dale Lastman served on the Board of Directors until February or March last year, and who then went back to his law firm, who Coole said happened to represent the Tannenbaum family.

“That family bought 20 bingo halls and then the Government announced in May that year that the bingo hall revitalization program.

“This comprised 47% to operators, 25% to charity, 25% to Government, and 3% to the host community.”

Coole said race track slots worked this way:

“Seventy five per cent profit to Government, 10% to track operator, 10% to horsemen, and 5% to the host community.

“The ombudsman didn't find enough corruption to investigate,” Coole said.

By Duane RANGER (editor)

How OLG Slots at Racetracks termination affects Racing, Equine and Ontario Taxpayers:

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