August 17, 2012

Three in Four Ontarians want the Slots-at-Racetracks Program Decision Reviewed; Only 17% support the McGuinty Government's Decision to Cancel the Program

In a significant rebuff to Premier Dalton McGuinty and Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, a new Abacus Data Poll conducted for Racing Future finds that most Ontarians think the provincial government should rethink its decision  to shut down the Slots at Racetracks program at Ontario's racetracks.

The poll comes as the McGuinty Liberal Government faces two by-elections that will determine whether or not Ontario will continue with a minority Liberal government or if the Liberals will be thrown out of office. If the government wins one seat, it will continue to govern - if it loses both, the Liberals could be out of office. (The current standings are Ontario Liberal Party: 52, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario: 36, New Democratic Party of Ontario: 17, with two vacant seats to be decided in the by-elections).

The Abacus Data poll - Evaluating the Slots at Racetracks Decision - was undertakento measure public response to the Ontario government's decision to cancel the Slots at Racetracks program. The survey asked respondents if they were aware of the Slots at Racetracks program, if they supported the McGuinty Government decision to cancel the program, and if they thought the government should review and revisit the decision.

The Slots at Racetracks program was an agreement between the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and 17 horse racing tracks across the province that saw slot machines installed in the race tracks.

Race tracks received 20% of the revenue from the slots for hosting the slots in the facilities, while the local municipality received 5%. Each year, the provincial government received about $1.1 billion in revenue; the racetracks received $345 million, while municipalities received about $86 million.

In March, the McGuinty government and OLG announced they were cancelling the program without any consultation or notice with their partners in the equine industry.

The racetrack and horse industry employs 55,000 people in Ontario. Horse industry stakeholders were also shocked when the program was described by Finance Minister Dwight Duncan as a subsidy when it is a lucrative partnership agreement with the government.

Respondents were asked whether or not they were aware of the program before the date of the survey.

A majority of Ontarians were aware of the Slots at Racetracks program; this awareness was virtually identical among urban, suburban and rural residents.Respondents were asked whether they supported or opposed the McGuinty government's decision to end the program, based on the description provided and any existing knowledge they possessed.

Only a small minority of respondents (17% overall) supported the government's decision, while 41% were opposed and 43% were indifferent.

Demographically, Liberal supporters were most likely to support the decision (29%), while PC supporters and rural residents were most likely to oppose it (55% and 49%, respectively).Although Liberal supporters were more likely to support the decision, a plurality still opposed it (29% in support versus 41% opposed). Despite the fact that the program's cancellation was most likely to affect rural Ontarians, pluralities of respondents living in suburban and urban communities opposed the decision.

Respondents were asked: "Do you think the government should review its decision to end the program?" A large majority of respondents (76%) believed that the government should review its decision. Support for such a reevaluation was consistently high across political and regional demographic subgroups.

Partnership or Subsidy?
The survey also tested whether the public views the Slots at Racetracks program as a subsidy or as a partnership between OLG and racetracks across Ontario.  respondents were asked: "Some people consider the Slots at Racetracks program a government subsidy, while others believe it is a partnership between the government and the horseracing industry. Based on what you know, do you think the Slots at Racetracks Program is a partnership or subsidy?"

Overall, respondents were more likely to consider the program a partnership rather than a subsidy (40% partnership, 25% subsidy). Another one in three respondents (36%) were unsure of which better described the program.

Responses were relatively consistent across demographic subgroups.  However, PC supporters were most likely to see the program as a partnership (55%) and register the lowest unsure scores (23%).

Revisit Decision?

The survey commissioned by Racing Future and was conducted online with a representative sample of 502 respondents living in Ontario using an internet survey platform. A random sample of panelists was invited to participate in the survey from a larger internet representative panel of over 150,000 Canadians.  The survey was completed from August 10-12, 2012.

The data was statistically weighted by age, gender, region, and education level according to census data.

Since the online survey was not a random, probability based sample, a margin of error could not be calculated. The margin of error for a survey of 2,099 respondents using a probability sample is +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20.

SOURCE: Toronto Partners Inc.

For further information:

about the results or Racing Future, please contact Dennis Mills at 416-587-1716.

For more information about the survey methodology, please contact David Coletto, CEO at david@abacusdata.ca or 613-232-2806.


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