The future of horse racing in Sudbury is still unclear after an announcement by Premier Kathleen Wynne Friday.

The province is pledging to again funnel money from slots revenue to the horse racing industry in Ontario — but the premier’s promise of a smaller industry has some stakeholders concerned.

The director of the Northern Horsemen’s Association said it’s the best news he's heard in a while, but said he’s worried the industry will be smaller once it starts to receive money from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.

"Before I was driving 20 to 25 horses a week," Paul Maclean said. "If it’s one day a week, we'll be looking at 12 horses a week I'll be driving."


The racetrack at Sudbury Downs. (Sudbury Downs)

The smaller size means the industry will be more sustainable, with fewer expenses for track owners, the province has said.

Wynne said she hopes that once the government's deals with the tracks expire, horse owners will be able to survive without slots money.

'Need something permanent'

Sudbury city councilor Evelyn Dutrisac said she is optimistic the owners of Sudbury Downs will sign their own deal with the province — but she wants to see the matter solved for good.

"They're talking 3 years," she said. "To ensure the horse racing industry is a viable industry, we need something permanent."

So far, six tracks in total will have racing this fall. The province continues to negotiate with eight others, including Sudbury Downs.

MacLean said he is anxious to see the talks come to fruition as racers typically need two months to get ready to race.

"We've been waiting patiently — going on a year — for a government decision, and we still don't know what's going on," he said.

Wynne would not confirm whether track owners would receive less money from the OLG than under the previous funding arrangement.