‘You Got To Feel Kind Of Helpless’: Horsemen Concerned Over Future Of Harness Racing In Ontario

by | 11.13.2017 | 11:39am

The horse racing industry in Ontario has struggled in the five years since the government reduced – by more than half – the funding it received from slots revenue.

Now, as the London Free Press reports, those that work in the harness racing industry “fear the death knell may be approaching.” That concern has grown in the time since Gateway Casinos & Entertainment, a Vancouver-based company, won a gaming license from the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corp. (OLG)

Gateway now owns the license to operate the slot machines at the Western Fair District fairgrounds in London, Ontario. According to the Free Press, since winning that bid, Gateway has been demanding more favorable terms to keep the slots facility operating there. The company has hinted on more than one occasion that it would move the casino from the fairgrounds if a better deal can't be secured.

That has many people in the industry worried about their future. “You got to feel kind of helpless,” said Mark Horner, director of Standardbred Canada and the Central Ontario Standardbred Association.

“Without the lease payments we can not support live racing,” said Hugh Mitchell, chief executive at the Western Fair District said.

“I've never seen something so complex — not in my lifetime, and I'm 63. . . There's a lot of heaving lifting left,” Mitchell said. “It really has (created) apprehension . . . This is thousands of jobs . . . The horse people are anxious. Most have spent their lives in this business (and) they're not at the (negotiating) table.”

Read more at Harnesslink.com

  • The changed game

    I’m sorry, but when you’re giving away $50k + in purses nightly and the ALL SOURCES HANDLE can’t even produce a quarter of a million bucks, that math doesn’t add up. You know the ontrack local handle is barely topping $10k

    Horsemen need to stop saying “woe is me” when these casino tracks clearly don’t give a S#** about the live racing product

  • McGov

    Most of these tracks were built and racing well before any casino’s in Ontario…..wonder how??

  • Dragons_Lair

    It is time to end the government subsidies of racing and allow the industry to support itself. The industry should stand or fail based on its ability to attract customers not be artificially supported by handouts.

    • brussellky

      This particular situation does not directly involve the government. The slots license holder is a private company that leases space for their operation at the harness track. They are demanding that their lease payments decrease or they will relocate elsewhere.

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