A transition funding agreement has been reached to support horse racing at Flamboro Downs.
Premier Kathleen Wynne announced a deals today for Flamboro, along with Fort Erie racetrack, and Georgian Downs.
The Liberals shocked the horse racing sector last year when they cancelled the $345 million a year share of slot machine revenues that went to support the tracks.
"We are on track to have sustainable horse racing industry in the province. It’s going to be smaller, I acknowledge that," Wynne said.
"The fact is that we are saving jobs, we are preserving jobs, and preserving an industry that is important to both rural and urban Ontario."
The company that owns Flamboro and Georgian Downs, Great Canadian Gaming Corp., said final details still need to be worked out before it can determine exactly what racing will look like under the new funding structure.
"Right now we are obviously pleased that government has been able to come forward and reach a deal with us," Howard Blank, vice-president of communications, entertainment & responsible gaming for Great Canadian Gaming, told CBC Hamilton.
Blank said details still to be determined include the number and dates of race days.
Blank added that he couldn’t comment yet on how much money will flow from the province to support racing at Flamboro and how long that transitional funding will last.
"Obviously it is early to tell what the long term affects will be, because we have to look through the deal," he said.
"I’m certainly more confident than the outlook was just a few months ago for racing in the future."
Good news for local economy
The deal is "exciting" news for the Hamilton-area said, city councillor Robert Pasuta, the representative for Ward 14 where Flamboro Downs is located.
"It seemed like the whole thing was falling apart," he said. "Now we’ve got the horse racing included … so it’s brought it back onto the face of the Earth again."
Flamboro supports 176 direct racing jobs, 250 race day positions, and indirectly contributes to some 3,600 jobs in the region. It also provides about $4.5 million in revenue to the municipality.
Pasuta said he is concerned that some jobs will still be lost if the new deal results in fewer race nights at Flamboro.
"But we have managed to keep some jobs, too."
‘Devil’s in the details’
The transitional deal for Flamboro is step in the right direction, said Brian Tropea, general manager for the Ontario Harness Horse Association.
"It’s another race track that is going to be keeping their doors open."
But because the province has not released details on the transitional funding agreements it has reached with tracks around the province, the horse racing industry is still in the dark about what the future holds,Tropea said.
"Unfortunately for the horse people, it lacks any specifics about racing opportunities or purse levels," he said. "The devil's is in the details for us."
Tropea said the transitional funding deals are expected to last for three years. In that time, it's expected that other forms of revenue will be indentified to make the racing industry self-sufficient.
"What they could be is anybody’s guess at this point," he said, adding the uncertainty makes it difficult to attract investment to the industry.
The future of horse racing at Flamboro was called into question after the province cancelled the program that shared revenue from slot machines with the racing industry. It was set to expire March 31.