Racetrack Employees held Hostage by Uncertainty

A dark cloud of doubt and disbelief looms over the future of Ontario’s racetracks, along with the thousands of workers tied to the horse racing industry.

The decision by the Liberals to end the Slots at Racetracks Program (SARP) will affect over 55,000 jobs related to the horse racing industry. Workers at racetracks across the province are also a part of this uncertain future.

Thousands of regular, hard working Ontarians, living on modest means with families to support and bills to pay; are faced with potential unemployment if the government does not reverse its decision to end SARP. 

Public Service Alliance of Canada member Sandra Saunders works as a full-time chef in the main kitchen at Georgian Downs Racetrack and is worried about how she will be able to make ends meet if there is no job left for her after March 31st.   A further concern for her is the competition she will face in finding a new job if hundreds of unemployed racetrack workers hit the job market at the same time in Simcoe County.

“There aren’t a lot of jobs out there right now” says Ms. Saunders.  “This is going to hurt the whole community, not just the racetracks, if so many people are out of work.  If people have no money to spend, it will hurt other businesses in the area too.”

Craig Simpson, also a PSAC member, has worked in shipping and receiving at Georgian Downs Racetrack since last March and is already dealing with reduced hours and an uncertain future.

“Before the Province cuts the Slots at Racetracks Program and thousands of people lose their jobs, they need to sit down and negotiate something that works for everyone.  So far they haven’t done that.  The workers have no say in these decisions.  We don’t even know what is going on – there is no communication, and a lot of us are going to be hurt”, states Mr. Simpson.

Mr. Simpson is also worried about the impact on the local community.

“I know a guy who runs a small restaurant outside the racetrack.  If we close down, there goes his job too.  This is how he makes his living.”

The OLG’s current plan involves eliminating the revenue sharing Slots at Racetracks Program that has helped support the horse racing industry and generated over $9 billion in revenue for the Province over the past decade.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) launched a Fight Back campaign last weekend to put pressure on the liberal delegates to vote for candidates who plan to protect the Slots at Racetracks Program, or delay its elimination until a responsible transition is set in place.  

PSAC will be joining other labour and community groups at the Liberal Convention on January 26th to continue to pressure the provincial government on this issue and other austerity measures affecting their members.


Lino Vieira, PSAC Communications Officer – 416-577-0238