A group of more than 30 Standardbred horse breeders are seeking $65 million in damages from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation according to a notice of action filed Monday at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Guelph.
The breeders are seeking damages for losses incurred when the lottery corporation cancelled the Slots at Racetracks Program "without prior notice, consultation, or any offer of compensation to the Plaintiffs,” the notice of action alleges.
Ontario's horse breeders were particularly hard hit by the cancellation of the slots program that led to a decline in purses and race dates of more than 30 percent across the province and caused the value of Ontario-produced horses to plummet by 50 percent or more.
Breeders were left out of a subsequent announcement of a five-year, $400 million government investment in horse racing that begins April 1. Despite that funding announcement, the value of Ontario-produced standardbred horses has yet to recover.
The breeders allege they were unfairly harmed because producing a horse to sell at market requires farms to make investment decisions as much as five years in advance. The Slots at Racetracks Program had run successfully for more than 12 years and long-term slots contracts were in effect with the horse racing industry when the lottery corporation announced in March of 2012 that it was exercising a one-year out clause in the contracts bringing an end to the program in March of 2013.
The breeders are seeking $60 million in damages "for negligence, negligent and/or intentional misrepresentation, breach of contract and unjust enrichment” and a further $5 million in "punitive, aggravated and exemplary damages or as otherwise determined by this Honourable Court.”--By Dave Briggs
Dave Briggs is the president of the Canadian chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association and a columnist for HarnessRacing Weekend Preview, which is available each Friday morning at harnessracing.com. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org