JOHN ROBBINS/Bullet News
FORT ERIE – There’s still no word on what, if any, funding the Fort Erie Race Track can expect from the province, but Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor says he is hoping there will be some “positive news” before the end of the month.
“There should be some news soon,” Craitor said during an interview with Bullet News, Wednesday evening.
“There has to be some news before the end of January, in my opinion.”
Last spring, Craitor’s own Liberal government threw the future of the track into uncertainty when it announced an end to the decade and a half old slots-slots-at-racetrack program, which help subsidize racing operations and race purses.
Then on April 30, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. permanently shuttered its slots facility at the track.
At first, it looked as though the government was leaving Ontario’s 17 horse tracks to fend for themselves after the end of the 2012 racing season.
But the minority Liberals later agreed to a budget demand by the NDP and set up a transition panel to make recommend sweeing changes to the industry and how best to spend any money earmarked to help tracks cope with the loss of slots funding.
Without some unspecified financial support, the Fort Erie Race Track – which will turn 116 years old in 2013 – could be close permanently at the end of March, before a new race season could even get underway.
The transition panel – composed of former provincial cabinet ministers, one from each of Ontario’s three main political parties – conducted consultations during the summer months before making their report public this past fall.
Race tracks interested in applying for transition funding were later invited to submit their proposals, along with a business plan showing how track operations would align with the recommendations contained in the report.
Craitor said the expectation is that tracks wanting funding have to agree to the same kind of financial transparency as is required of other organizations recieving provincial grants or transfer payments.
As a not-for-profit entity with stakeholder governance, the Fort Erie Race Track is unique among Ontario tracks, most of which are privately owned and operated.
Craitor said he’s confident Fort Erie meets the transparency litmus test, and, in his opinion, should be seen as a “model” to be emulated across the industry.