In less than a week, Woolwich Township intends to announce whether they will roll out the welcome mat for an OLG casino. I would imagine, by now, that the councillors have decided their vote but, as per all government protocols, the proper process must be implemented so we’ll wait until March 5th for the formal announcement.
As the formal announcement approaches, I’ve been following the local television coverage of the effects this potential casino will have on Grand River Raceway, horse people and Centre-Wellington Township. I agree that the horse people, the track and Centre-Wellington Township are going to feel the great financial burden that is being created as a result of this potential casino. But as I look at horseracing, specifically the sustainability of horseracing, I must look at how horseracing is funded. It used to be primarily funded by the betting on the activity but as technology changed, bettors had more and more options to spend their betting dollars. Time marches on folks. My hair has gone from brown to gray and I’m working harder at hiding my wrinkles and I am forced to keep up with technology or get left behind. That’s also happening to horseracing – especially to the folks betting on horseracing. With all the new options for wasting, ‘er I mean for spending their betting dollars, less people are interested in the traditional horse-racing betting forum, i.e. there is less demand for the product. And what happens when there is no longer a demand for the product? I think we can see the answer in the midst of these changes.
My heart really goes out to the young people involved in this industry, many of them being second or third generation horse people. I can see and feel their passion but unfortunately these young people have entered an industry that is failing, primarily due to lack of demand for their product. I’ve cautioned many young people on getting into these ‘dying’ industries, including sectors of agriculture involving food-production. The one difference between these two industries is that people have to eat, so food-production is still in demand but as technology continues to change, food may be created scientifically in lab environments rather than in fields. If this happens, eventually the demand for traditional crop farmers will fade as well. The almighty dollar will dictate which direction to go.
Change continues all around us. Even Canada Revenue doesn’t want paper copies of tax returns anymore, banks don’t provide paper monthly statements to customers anymore, libraries are providing ‘e-books’ rather than the paper version, desk-top computers are rare, and does anyone know what a radio or record-player is anymore? Horseracing needs to either find a way of being current and attracting customers to support and sustain their industry or become a memory, a hobby or a vintage nostalgic activity.
Woolwich Township will soon announce whether or not they’re willing to spin the wheel and take on OLG’s request to host a casino. Wilmot Township just rolled the dice and crapped out, Cambridge said ‘no thanks’ and Kitchener and Waterloo aren’t brave enough to even consider the idea, however, they certainly want to make sure that they get some benefit – meaning a cut of the cash! – if Woolwich says “yes, thank you”. What a bunch of money-grubbing cowards the leaders of Waterloo and Kitchener are! They don’t want that dirty money going directly into the wallets of their fair city but they won’t hesitate to get into Woolwich’s wallet to grab a few bucks if they say ‘yes’. They say that costs to the Region will go up as a result of a casino in that location, i.e. policing, etc. Statistics show that policing costs do not go up significantly at slots and casinos – so that’s crap! And won’t the Region get a substantial amount of property tax dollars as a result of this facility? Yes, that’s right. At a minimum, Woolwich deserves credit for at least putting their neck out to examine this issue again. Granted it’s a whole different set of municipal councilors this time. The last bunch included a councilor that thought being dishonest was different than lying! I kid you not! Hopefully this new set of councilors knows that there is no difference – but taking on a casino in the township will make a difference.
OLG is going to ensure that this area is serviced. There are way too many people in this area to ignore all those dollars. And if the proposed location is at the south end of Woolwich Township – down along Highway 7 – most folks attending the facility won’t even know that they’re in Woolwich Township. The Mennonite culture wouldn’t be harmed – Mennonites stay away from that busy Highway 7 area. The marketing image of St. Jacobs, one of rural, country Mennonites won’t be tarnished either. The distance between St. Jacobs and Shantz Station is over 20 km. That’s a helluva lot further than the distance from Woolwich Township to Grand River Raceway in Elora. Seize the opportunity Woolwich. A facility is going to be built somewhere nearby so the ‘negatives’ that accompany gaming that the opponents are using as their arguments are going to exist regardless and Woolwich is going to be expected to pick up a portion of that tab. Opponents say they’re willing to pay higher municipal taxes if Woolwich says no to this opportunity. I’m not. In fact the spokesperson for the opposition at the recent Woolwich Township stands to lose a great deal if a facility is built at this new site. This new site might even have a hotel – a hotel that competes with the St. Jacobs hotel with which the spokesperson is affiliated. Cough, cough – conflict of interest – cough, cough? Or maybe this new site will be a new destination site for Woolwich? Can’t Woolwich have more than one? I think they can.