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

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

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