Consensus Builder

Dan Gall, the new president and CEO of Standardbred Canada said one of his strengths is building relationships. It’s a skill he plans to use to extensively consult the membership about the future of the organization.

by Dave Briggs

Dan Gall said the first order of business when he officially becomes the president and chief executive officer of Standardbred Canada on July 18 is to consult the membership and find out where it thinks the organization should be heading.

Standardbred Canada has faced declining membership and financial challenges in recent years and is heavily involved in a number of areas beyond its core mandate as harness racing’s registrar and information keeper in Canada — horses sales, marketing, media, etc.

Gall said Thursday, “everything needs to be reviewed.

“Some of the stakes holders I’ve already spoken to have intimated to me that we, perhaps, have to reset what we’re doing,” he said. “We have to, perhaps redefine what we’re doing. Frankly, I believe that’s why I was selected for the job, because I’m great at relationship building. I love leading teams and when we get all the facts on the table we can make some hard decisions about what the direction is going to be. But I have to underline it by saying that it’s going to be the customers that need to drive that vision forward for us. I won’t be able to determine what that vision is until I have an idea from our customers.”

The day Gall takes his post will mark the first time in a full year and a day that Standardbred Canada has had a CEO. John Gallinger, the low-profile previous president and CEO, resigned July 17, 2015.

Gall comes to Standardbred Canada after 17 years with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming corporation (OLG) as a manager of seven different slot machine parlors in the province.

“I opened up the Clinton property and then moved up and down the highway 401 over the past 17 years and operated the biggest racino in the province at Woodbine. I also spent some time in Hiawatha, Kawartha in Peterborough.”

He is leaving his position as the general manager of the OLG’s slot operation at The Western Fair District in London to take the job with Standardbred Canada.

Prior to working for the OLG, Gall worked in radio for some 20 years — and has the broadcasting voice to prove it.

Gall was born in Tillsonburg, ON and occasionally went as a boy with his family to Woodstock Raceway and then Kawartha Downs when the family moved to Peterborough.

“It was a family thing we would do occasionally. It was never something that we did all the time. That was my first introduction,” Gall said. “But really it was when I started working with the OLG then I became very aware of the industry.”

Gall said the fact his first job with the OLG came at Clinton Raceway gave him an invaluable education about horse racing courtesy of track general manager Ian Fleming.

“I learned so much so quickly through Ian, not only about the industry, but more importantly, the passion, the energy, the commitment of the people that are working in the horse racing industry. It’s unbelievable.

“Very early on in Clinton, Ian and I organized a meeting of industry leaders both in the racetrack and in OLG to put together the very first provincial promotion called See How The Other Half Wins. It was an opportunity to display what OLG’s product was to the race fans and the race fans’ product to our customers,” said Gall, who still lives in the Clinton area in the Lake Huron resort town of Bayfield.

Though some may consider Gall an outsider that worked for the same OLG that cancelled the Slots at Racetracks Program (SARP) in 2013 causing upheaval in Ontario’s horse racing industry, he said he thinks he was hired because he has the skills to bring the industry together.

“I know it’s been a rough ride in the last few years. It’s been a little upheaval in certain areas. However, I think first and foremost, is going and understanding and listening to what our members are saying and what their expectations are for Standardbred Canada. What their wants and needs are and the direction in which they would like to take the organization. Talking to our industry members, our racing fans, is, I think, critical to understanding the great picture,” Gall said.

“The good news from Standardbred Canada’s perspective and my perspective is we’ve got a great team that is committed to this sport and committed to the industry. I believe we have to have a balance of input from our members to ensure we’re delivering on their expectations.”

Gall has already been working the phones and talking to stakeholders. He thinks a trip to western Canada will come early in his tenure and hopes to go to the east coast, as well, to consult with the membership.

“I do need to go into the head office and look at our team, talk to them, tap into their energies and their insights of where we’re going to go,” he said. “So, it will evolve with regards to the schedule, but I do believe that first year is going to be critical in getting out and reaching out to the industry and listening to where we should be driving our business.”

He said he also wants to develop a strong working relationship with the United States Trotting Association.

“Definitely, we need to build the relations. We need to work together,” he said. “The way I look at it, Standardbred Canada needs to be the voice of the industry in Canada. The industry is the breeders, the owners, the drivers, the trainers. They’re the ones that should be having the voice. If I can harness that and speak on their behalf of the direction, that’s the direction that we need to go.”