In a seemingly controversial budget decision yesterday, the Ford government announced they would be investing $10 million per year into the horse racing industry in Ontario. Many Ontarians expressed outrage at this decision wondering why Doug Ford is prioritizing gambling instead of education or something else important. That's a fair question, but Doug Ford's $10 million investment in horse racing could actually be good for Ontario, here's why.
Horse racing in this province is part of Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG). This agency of the province is responsible for all lotteries, casinos, and gambling in Ontario, that includes horse racing. Since OLG is responsible for gambling, they also rake in massive profits from it as well. For example, last year they generated over $4 billion in economic activity in Ontario.
On top of that, OLG invests 100% of their proceeds back into Ontario. Last year this meant $2.44 billion that went back into the community, supporting things like hospitals, university campuses, sports, and other local and provincial initiatives. They also gave $45 million directed towards people with gambling addictions for treatment and prevention.
One of the Ontario programs that benefit from this OLG investment directly is the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) was started in 1982 being funded completely by the lotteries in this province. Every year they give out grants to various non-profits and local organization in the province.
Last year OTF invested over $120 million of funding into hundreds of community projects that are based entirely in Ontario and focus on improving the lives of Ontarians.
One fact that we can't ignore, however, is the fact earlier this year, Doug Ford's government cut some funding to the OTF. It wasn't a small cut either. The government actually ended up taking $15 million from them this year as a way to reduce a very large budget deficit.
Obviously, this is going to be detrimental to some of the organizations that are receiving grants and funding from the OTF. There is really no way to makes this sound like a good move, other than the fact that so far, this has only been announced as a one-time reduction.
That means it's not clear yet if the OTF's full funding will be restored next year or not, but even if it's not while they've taken a hit, that's still $100 million annually that they are investing back into the community.
Even with this OTF funding cut, Doug Ford's latest investment in horse racing could still end up having a really promising trickle-down effect. Part of this huge investment will be directed towards race tracks, where the money is made.
Specifically, this will go towards helping those racetracks maintain and operate their facilities and also their other gaming operations since many Ontario racetracks also have slot machines, which is a massive revenue item for OLG.
The investment is getting even bigger since the province has also made a 19 year deal with Woodbine Entertainment Group, who will be giving $105 million in support annually for racetrack operations. This, in turn, should generate more profits for OLG which means more money can be invested back into the community.
Minister @VictorFedeli announced support for Ontario's horse racing industry to create and protect good jobs in rural communities. New investments of $10 million per year will support breeders and horsepeople, for an industry that contributes $2 billion annually to our economy. pic.twitter.com/chssur11Z0— Doug Ford (@fordnation) March 22, 2019
It's easy to look on the surface and ask why Doug Ford is throwing money towards gambling instead of education in this province. It's a valid question and by no means does the trickle down affect completely justify some changes the Ford government has been making lately.
That being said, when you dig deeper you can see a potential return on investment that would be super beneficial to the province moving forward. So while this doesn't answer the question of why the government is making cuts to education and other necessities like that, the potential returns for the community may help soften the blow.