Industry Reports

Ontario Standardbred Racehorse Breeders CA$65M Legal Battle against OLG Continues

Ontario’s Standardbred horse sector is once again in the spotlight, as this Tuesday saw an extensive civil lawsuit make its way to the Ontario Superior Court. In 2014, a group of Ontario Standardbred racehorse breeders greenlighted its CA$65-million quest against Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, triggered by the ending of the Slots at Racetracks program.

This week saw the Michael Rosenberg, OLG’s lawyer defend the corporation claiming it has not been negligent or misrepresenting. Back in March 2012, the Crown corporation decided to shut down the existing slot locations part of the race courses in Windsor, Fort Erie, and Sarnia. The gaming facilities adjacent to Hiawatha Horse Park and Fort Erie Race Track had to cease operation in March 2013. As a result of this and the alleged damages caused by the cancellation, as many as 35 Ontario-based breeders commenced their battle seeking compensation in 2014.

Plaintiffs Claim SARP Cancelation Caused Damages

Prior to the start of the lawsuit, the province decided to give some CA$80 million as a compensation to the management of the said racecourses, but the plaintiffs claim that they received nothing. The program was able to bring some CA$345 million annually, later on, used by the racetracks.

The breeders claimed that the compensation would be needed for the damages coverage caused by the negligence and misrepresentation OLG did. In addition to that, they claimed that the cancellation of this program was in direct breach of the existing contract between the parties.

Supposedly this happened without notice of consultation. This Tuesday saw Mr. Rosenberg defended the corporation claiming that the plaintiffs did not have a contract arranging the collaboration, in this sense, there was no breach of a previous arrangement. There was no negligence demonstrated, as OLG was not in any way linked to the breeders.

The ultimate arrangement was between the lottery corporation and the management of the racetracks and OLG was not obligated to take care of the Standardbred racehorses’ breeders. It should also be taken into account that the decision to put an end to the Slots at Racetracks program did not have a negative impact on the sector in the long run.

Breeders’ Lawyer Expresses Official Position

Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation should not be held responsible for the cancellation, as lawyer Rosenberg clarified. This is because the Ontario government and not the OLG makes all final decisions. The gaming corporation does not have the authority to tell the government what to do, as the only thing OLG could do is come up with the appropriate recommendations every once in a while.

In response, Jonathan Lisus, the lawyer defending the plaintiffs stated that the three parties had a proximity relationship developing over the span of nearly 15 years. This meant that representatives of the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association had regular congregations with members of the Minister of Finance in the years ahead of 2012.

Mr. Lisus stated that breeding was encouraged by the provincial politicians, even though at the time OLG was preparing for the modernization plan. Now that all parties had the chance to showcase their position on the controversial subject, Justice Emery would have to come up with the final decision. The litigation process lasts for years and back in 2014 breeders claimed they would not want extensive court process.