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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Basically Business as Usual for WEG in 2013

At this morning's press conference to formally announce details of the agreement between WEG and OMAFRA which will provide for the continuation of racing at Woodbine and Mohawk during a two year transitional period by which time horse racing should become self-sustaining, the following details were announced:

  1. This deal involves only transitional funding.  A lot more hard work remains ahead to keep the racing industry going after this two year period.  The interim agreement was the easy part.
  2. The ORC now falls under the responsibility of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and For Rural Affairs as announced yesterday..
  3. 'World class' horse racing will continue in Ontario as a result of this agreement.
  4. The deal with Woodbine and Mohawk is a starting point, not the end.
  5. Other tracks are presently in negotiations with OMAFRA for the continuation of racing.  The particular tracks were not mentioned.
  6. The subsidy amount industry-wide will be considerably more than $50 million but will not be known for a few more weeks when agreements with other tracks are worked out.
  7. It is anticipated that there will be some downsizing on the standardbred side of the sport in the province.
  8. The Horse Improvement Program has a three year commitment which means for the next three years the Ontario Sires Stakes program should remain intact.

Nick Eaves, the CEO of WEG went into more detail.
  1. The plan offers short term stability.
  2. Change will be coming in the way things are done as a result of funding changes.  The goal will be to make those changes as transparent as possible.  For all practical purposes, at least in 2013, racing will essentially be unchanged.
    1. The high profile stakes races such as the Queens Plate and the North American Cup will be contested.  Expect the stakes schedule to be altered to reflect available purse funds.
    2. There will be 133 days of thoroughbred racing with purses similar to last year's purse distribution.  The thoroughbred meet will begin in mid to late April.
    3. A total of 184 days of standardbred racing will be offered  with purses at the levels already established for this year.  This is roughly 45 days less than 2012.
  3. Racing needs to fit into the province's overall gaming strategy.
  4. There will be attempts to find new funding sources for racing on an on-going basis.
  5. WEG feels in the long term it is essential that a casino be located at WEG though this is not part of this deal.  This is an issue outside of the control of WEG.

A copy of a press release recapping today's press conference is available here.

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