Protest at Rideau Carleton Raceway
Published Monday, March 26, 2012 2:45PM EDT
Jockeys and stable staff stopped the races Sunday and picketed on the track to protest the government's decision to cut funding to Canada's longest form of legal gaming.
The Ontario government announced plans to move ahead with OLG's proposal to end the subsidy program earlier this month.
"It's just devastating, absolutely devastating," said Julie Ferguson. "It is not only an industry that we can make a living at and support ourselves. It's a way of life."
Industry workers fear the cuts would severely hurt the economic opportunity attached to horse racing.
"It would take away my living, I would have no job. I've got three kids I need to support," said Jamie Copley. "I own 25 horses and they wouldn't be worth very much."
The provincial government said the new gaming model would raise as much as $1.3 billion more in revenue each year. Some suggest the government is getting greedy.
"$2.1 billion – and that number can be found on the Ontario Lottery Corporation's website – is the amount of revenue the Ontario government receives from the slots at racetracks program," said John MacMillan of the National Capital Region Harness Horse Association.
Three-quarters of that money goes to the provincial government. Right now, 10 per cent is given back to horse owners who say without it their industry is finished.
Ferguson said their will be a massive trickle down effect caused by the planned cuts. She points to the agricultural jobs and veterinarians who rely on horse racing.
"A lot of these people are not going to be re-trainable for another type of employment. This is all they know," said Ferguson.
The new program will likely take effect March 2013.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Katie Griffin