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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The First Casualties; A Dig

Thanks to PTP for bringing this to our attention, but it looks like three Ontario tracks have already been designated to lose their casinos within a few months.  On the thoroughbred side, Fort Erie will likely lose their casino and likely signal the end of racing at Fort Erie after 115 years as they have been on life support for quite a while.  On the harness side, Windsor Raceway and Hiawatha Horse Park are among the first casualties.  Apparently, OLG already had a list of tracks that will be losing their slots and it is anticipated that these three are only the beginning.  The good thing is we shouldn't expect any immeidate track closings as funding for purses will continue until March 13, 2013.

Update:  While these three closings have been officially announced, there is some speculation that slots at Flamboro Downs may be next on the chopping block.

Update:  Read Windsor Raceway's Response to the OLG Decision.

But even those maintaining slots are not going to get away easy.  Expect the OLG to demand new terms from those racetracks maintaining slots.  For one thing, the OLG paid all the expenses and will now expect slot parlors to pay salary expenses, so even if a track maintains their slots, expect the amount of money available for purse money to be greatly reduced.

It also seems we are now in the mode of every track is out to save themselves as Woodbine is campaigning to save their slot parlor.  They hope to negotiate with the OLG new terms to ensure the OLG stays at the track.  It is great that Woodbine is out to save themselves, but if WEG survives but the feeder tracks are shuttered, they are in trouble are the breeders.  We all hear about the stars each stallion throw off, but they never talk about the ones that don't cut the grade.  Without the feeder tracks, expect a lot of breeders to be shuttering their operations even if Woodbine keeps their slot.

Assuming Woodbine keeps their slots, what should be done is to take some of their slot revenue and help fund the purse accounts at non-WEG tracks to keep at least a few of the feeder tracks going.  Unfortunately, two things would suggest that won't happen; horsemen don't want to give up purse money for another track; WEG tracks are controlled by COSA and the other tracks are controlled by OHHA.which suggests egos will be at work here.

Of course, American horsemen should start getting nervous.  Forget about the Pennsylvania cut in the subsidy racing gets; while it is significant the real warning sign is Ontario.  A government realizes why should racing get anything?  A precedent has been made and unlike something which happens in Europe, what happens in Ottawa gets reported in the States and you can make sure legislators are hearing about this and the little seed is placed in politician's ears.  It is only a matter of time until the first state decides racing is out of luck.

Meanwhile, in New York, Jeff Gural has delivered a subtle dig at Joe Faraldo and other horsemen association leaderships by talking about a poll the USTA undertook which he paid for.  Apparently 84% of horsemen agreed that a small amount of their purse account slot money should be used for drug testing while 87% of the horsemen agreed with the concept of 5% of the ourse money be used for marketing.  Of course, in the psat the response from leadership of horsemen groups have been saying these tings are the track's responsibilities.  It will be interesting in light of this news if horsemen's leaders will get the message.

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