Deal to keep slots, rac­ing at Downs is still murky

The Peterborough Examiner - - Opinion -

Kawartha Downs race­track ap­pears to have won its high-stakes gam­ble for sur­vival.

KD and its hard-bar­gain­ing gen­eral man­ager, Orazio Va­lente, over the past year re­jected two On­tario gov­ern­ment of­fers in­tended to keep the track and har­ness rac­ing afloat.

One was a $200,000 boost to the track’s an­nual sub­sidy to make up for the loss of its slot ma­chines to a new, larger casino about to open in Peter­bor­ough.

More re­cently, Va­lente ini­tially said no to an of­fer to keep 150 slot ma­chines at the track.

He in­sisted that 250 ma­chines were nec­es­sary to gen­er­ate enough rev­enue to keep the har­ness rac­ing op­er­a­tion vi­able.

Now KD has ac­cepted the 150 slot ma­chines and Va­lente says har­ness rac­ing will be back next sea­son.

Whether that means the 250 fig­ure was just bar­gain­ing for a bet­ter deal, or whether the province has of­fered an ad­di­tional sweet­ener, is not known.

In fact, very lit­tle has been re­vealed about how this new ar­range­ment will work.

Best case, it is a win for ev­ery­one in­volved.

The lo­cal har­ness rac­ing com­mu­nity gets to keep rac­ing with purses large enough to make it worth their while.

Thirty KD restau­rant, ser­vice and se­cu­rity staff em­ploy­ees get to keep their jobs.

Ca­van Mon­aghan Town­ship could, it would ap­pear, con­tinue to get a share of casino rev­enue.

And Premier Doug Ford and MPP Lau­rie Scott, whose rid­ing in­cludes Ca­van Mon­aghan, get to say they “saved har­ness rac­ing in On­tario.”

Check that.

Even if the still murky deal works out on all those lo­cal lev­els, the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment doesn’t get to ex­pand its role to saviour of har­ness rac­ing.

What Premier Ford and com­pany have done is ex­tend a bailout by the for­mer Lib­eral gov­ern­ment that al­ready pays the rac­ing in­dus­try more than $105 mil­lion a year, plus mil­lions more to make up for the loss of slots rev­enue.

The ma­jor­ity of On­tario tracks signed on to the Lib­eral plan and are op­er­at­ing as they al­ways have. Kawartha Down was one of the few out­liers.

As a small, ru­ral track, KD had good rea­son to look for a bet­ter deal.

When it lost the slots it lost nearly $6.5 mil­lion in gam­bling rev­enue. A to­tal of $1.5 mil­lion in an­nual sub­si­dies wouldn’t be enough to sur­vive on.

But it is not clear that 150 slot ma­chines will do it – one-third of the pre­vi­ous to­tal – will do it ei­ther. Par­tic­u­larly when the Shore­lines Casino opens Mon­day just down the road in Peter­bor­ough with 500 slots and 22 ta­ble games in­clud­ing black­jack and roulette.

That brings up an­other pos­si­ble twist in the story. Shore­lines is owned by Great Cana­dian Gam­ing Corp., which also won the right to build a mega-casino in Pick­er­ing with 2,700 slots and 1,000 gam­ing ta­bles.

That ven­ture came at the ex­pense of Ajax Downs race­track, which lost its slots op­er­a­tions to the Pick­er­ing site.

But as with KD, Ajax Down has just been told it can now keep 500 of its 800 slot ma­chines. They will be op­er­ated by . . . Great Cana­dian Gam­ing.

Will both gam­bling cen­tres here be run by the same op­er­a­tor? Will the Tories of­fer other On­tario tracks slot ma­chines?

There is a fair bit of wait-and-see in what the “saviour” has put on the ta­ble so far.

As a small, ru­ral track, KD had good rea­son to look for a bet­ter deal.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.