Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ontario Liberals Reach Funding Deals with Three More Racetracks

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ontario Liberals Reach Funding Deals with Three More Racetracks

Article excerpt

Ontario reaches deals with three racetracks

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LUCAN, Ont. - Transition funding agreements that will save jobs have been reached with three more racetracks to replace the cancelled revenue-sharing slots program, Premier Kathleen Wynne said Tuesday.

The racetracks are Flamboro Downs near Hamilton, Georgian Downs near Barrie and the Fort Erie track in the Niagara area, which will reopen for racing.

That brings the number of racetracks with funding agreements to nine, Wynne said. Her government is still negotiating with six others.

"It's further indication that we are on track -- so to speak -- to have a sustainable horse racing industry in the province," she said during a visit to a dairy farm in Lucan, northwest of London.

"It's going to be smaller, I acknowledge that, and it's hard when there are job losses and I know there were some job losses over the last couple of weeks," said Wynne, who also serves as minister of agriculture.

"But the fact is that we are saving jobs, we're preserving jobs and we're preserving an industry that's important to both rural and urban Ontario."

Officials wouldn't say how much money would be involved until all agreements are completed. But one source who requested anonymity estimated the province would be putting about $200 million into the deals with all the racetracks.

The minority Liberals shocked the sector last year when they cancelled the $345 million a year share of slot machine revenues that went to tracks, prompting several tracks to close or announce plans to shut down.

The Windsor Raceway closed last year, putting over 200 people out of work. Toronto's Woodbine Racetrack, which secured transitional funding and signed a lease with the province to hold the slots, cut 100 jobs in February.

The Western Fair Raceway near London recently confirmed that it was cutting jobs, even though it had also secured transitional funding and signed a commercial lease.

An expert panel set up by the government concluded the slot machine revenue had accounted for 64 per cent of the annual income for the horse racing sector in Ontario, and more than 60 per cent of purse money.

The horse racing association said having slot machines at 17 Ontario racetracks used to generate $1. …

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