TRUSTED ADVISOR AND ADVOCATE
TRUSTED ADVISOR AND ADVOCATE
The Alcohol Gaming Commission of Ontario (“AGCO”) regulates practically everyone employed in the horse racing industry in Ontario by administering the Horse Racing Licence Act, 2015. Their mandate is to do so through in accordance with the principles of honesty and integrity, and to protect the public interest. The AGCO employs an individual called a “Registrar” to make administrative decisions regarding applicants or registered individuals and business regarding their ability to operate in horse racing industry.
Burokas Law acts as a horse racing lawyer in representing any individual or business seeking to enter the horse racing industry or is facing administrative action from the Registrar of the AGCO. Services include:
Horse racing in Ontario is regulated by two separate laws, the Horse Racing Licence Act and the Rules of Racing. The Horse Racing Licence Act establishes a licensing regime, similarly to other regulated industries, whereby a large amount of people within the industry require a licence:
Application for Licence
Any individual, corporation, or partnership planning to act in one or more of the capacities listed in the table above needs to apply to the AGCO for registration. The Registrar will refuse, refuse to renew, suspend, or revoke a licence if:
Inquires and Inspections
The AGCO has the ability to make inquires and conduct investigations into applicants or licensees in regards to their competence, financial history, or character, in order to determine whether they meet, or continue to meet, the requirements for their licence. This includes their officers, directors, shareholders (corporate licensees) or partners (partnerships). The Registrar can require information or material from these individuals to assist in their inquiry or investigation and obtain a written statement that has the same effect as testifying in court.
The applicant or licensee must pay reasonable costs or provide security to the Registrar to pay for the inquiry or investigation.
The AGCO has employed inspectors who are empowered by the Horse Racing Licence Act to enter into buildings and vehicles used in horse racing examine records, demand the production of anything relevant to the inspection, seize items for review, take photographs/video, and inquire into financial transactions. It is the licensee’s obligation to produce any item sought and provide assistance to the inspector if requested.
Proposals- Refuse, Revoke, Suspend, or Refuse to Renew
If the Registrar believes an applicant or licensee does not meet one or many of the above listed criteria for the relevant type of licence, he or she will issue a proposal. A proposal is an administrative action the Registrar uses to refuse an application, revoke an application, suspend an licence, or refuse to renew a licence when it’s up for renewal. The proposal will outline what administrative action the Registrar is taking and why he or she is taking it. These reasons must be grounded in the above listed criteria.
The Registrar's authority to take administrative action is not absolute. Individuals and corporations receiving proposals may appeal the Registrar’s decision to the Licence Appeal Tribunal, an independent tribunal that hears evidence and arguments about why a licence should or should nor be granted/suspended/revoked. To appeal, an individual or corporation must serve a notice of appeal on the Licence Appeal Tribunal and the Registrar within 15 days of receiving a proposal. Otherwise, the proposal will be carried out and whatever is being proposed will be effected.
Hearings at the Licence Appeal Tribunal are governed by their Rules of Practice and Procedure. Generally, hearings are similar to a trial in court where each party may make opening submissions, call evidence, cross-examine the other party’s evidence, and make closing submissions. A member of the Licence Appeal Tribunal will sit as an independent adjudicator and make findings of fact, weigh evidence, make witness credibility findings, and apply those findings to applicable law.
It is very common for conditions to be applied on a licence. They often arise in situations where the Registrar has some concerns with an applicant or licensee, but they do not rise to the level of initiating or continuing a proposal. Such conditions may impose restrictions on conduct or simply reiterate obligations already mandated by the Horse Racing Licence Act, 2015 and it’s regulations. Conditions can either be imposed by the Licence Appeal Tribunal as outcome of a hearing, ordered as part of a resolution, or consented to by the applicant/licensee.
Investigations, Offences, and Prosecution
The AGCO also has powers to charge individuals and corporations with offences and prosecute them on court. The offences include:
Individuals found guilty of one of these offences can be sentenced to a fine up to $50,000 ($500,000 for corporations) and one year in prison. Offences are heard in trials at the Ontario Court of Justice.
The AGCO employs investigators to investigate possible offences. Like police officers, investigators can apply to the courts for a search warrant to enter buildings or vehicles and seize specific items to further their investigation.
Any conviction under the Liquor Licence Act will have severe consequences on an applicant’s or licensee’s ability to enter or remain in the horse racing industry.
Rules of Racing
The Horse Racing Licence Act empowers the AGCO to create rules of conduct for horse racing. They are divided between the Rules of Standardbred Racing and Rules of Thoroughbred Racing. They consist of detailed rules that regulate racing similar to official rules of a professional sports league. Much of the authority to apply these rules are delegated to stewards, judges, veterinarians, track officials, racing associations, officers, racing officials, inspectors, and investigators. Anyone who considers themselves aggrieved by a decision of one or more of these individuals may appeal to the Horse Racing Appeal Panel who will either confirm or vary the decision, or set it aside completely. This panel is appointed by the board of the AGCO to act as impartial decision makers. Individuals wishing challenge a ruling must file a Notice of Appeal within 15 days.
Appeals to the Horse Racing Appeal Panel are similar to appeals to the Licence Appeal Tribunal where both parties can call witnesses, present evidence and challenge the other party’s evidence. Decisions of this panel are final.
Burokas Law is happy to assist any individual or business seeking a licence, in need of compliance advice, or subject to an administrative action by the AGCO.