A former cabinet minister with the Mike Harris government says Sudbury can expect to hear soon whether there will be horse racing at Sudbury Downs this year.

John Snobelen is part of a panel created to study the horse racing industry in Ontario. It recommended that the province not completely ditch its slots-at-racetracks program.

'There's every reason to be optimistic ...' —John Snobelen

Instead, the panel recommended the province negotiate new deals with each operator, with the hope that the horse racing industry will be become self-sustaining in the coming years.

Snobelen said he's optimistic a deal can be reached.

"There's been money put aside to help tracks and support tracks," he said.

"And there's some purse money available in Sudbury, so there is every reason to be optimistic."

Snobelen also noted the province would like to have all contracts complete by the end of the month.

But so far the only tracks that have been signed under the new model are not-for-profit.

Negotiating with for-profit tracks like Sudbury Downs is "a little more problematic," Snobelen said, because there is less profit to be made — at least initially.

"It’s a challenge for everybody," he said. "But there is no reason to think that a private operator who wants to have live racing, can't have it."