(LEAMINGTON, ON) – There is concern within the local horse racing community about the longevity of harness racing at Leamington Raceway. The proposed 19-year agreement by Ontario Lottery and Gaming does not provide the comfort level desired by local horsemen.
Tom Bain, the Essex County Warden and director of the Lakeshore Horse Racing Association, told CBC that the offer by OLG is unsustainable and may spell the end of horse racing due to the uncertainty after the first three years of the contract.
The proposed deal will provide $104.8 million in each of the first two years of the contract, to be split between the 15 tracks in Ontario. Leamington’s share equates to $39,000 for each of the scheduled 13 race days. In addition to race purses, the funding is proportionally intended for track improvements and administration.
Other race tracks around the province will receive as much as $65,000 per race day.
The uncertainty revolves around what the funding level will be after the first two years. The OLG agreement specifies, however, that every three years a new business plan will project future funding.
Ontario Racing shall deliver to OLG a three-year strategic plan that addresses the matters specified in Schedule 5.4. In developing the Three-Year Strategic Plan, Ontario Racing shall take into account that racetracks play a critical role in the growth trajectory of the horse racing sector in Ontario. Consequently, Ontario Racing shall drive efforts to enable and grow a prosperous, dynamic horse racing industry that will be positioned for long-term viability and success.
The issue is the rate of increase of the funding if it even increases at all. The Lakeshore Horse Racing Association has until May 7 to sign on with the agreement. The horse racing industry is being called to unite under the new Ontario Racing structure. Once that is achieved, OLG, Ontario Racing, Ontario Racing Management, and Woodbine Entertainment Group will execute the funding agreement.
Bain says he has no intention of signing the agreement without further negotiation.
The 2018 season begins at Leamington Raceway on August 5.