PETER CONRADI/Bullet News and JAMES CULIC/Niagara This Week
Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor doesn’t know if a new two-year lease at a reduced rate will be enough to save the Fort Erie Race Track.
Craitor, who met with incoming premier Kathleen Wynne Monday while track officials were announcing details of their new deal with the facility owner, said he viewed it as positive news, but could offer no assurances about 2013.
“At least we now know we have a race track to be kept open. So that’s good. I wish the owners had agreed to $1 a year. They are getting a great deal even with this new agreement. They’re getting their taxes paid for – even that alone is worth a lot. But it’s still good. Anything like this is encouraging.”
In an effort to make itself more attractive to the provincial government, Fort Erie Race Track secured a reduced leasing arrangement with the property owners.
The current lease payment between the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium and Nordic Gaming is $650,000 per year, but has been reduced to $395,000.
Jim Thibert, CEO of the FELRC, said Monday the province is looking for Ontario’s 17 horse racing tracks to show evidence of the strides that have been made to reduce expenses and generate revenue.
“We’re ready to present this latest proposal to the province for approval,” said Thibert. “It’s now up to the panel to make a decision.”
To secure race dates for the 2013 reason, tracks must open up their financials books to a three-member panel which now oversees the horse racing industry and reports to Rural Affairs Minister Ted McMeekin.
Thibert said he has not heard from the panel since mid-December but hopes this latest news will entice the government to offer the local track a deal for the 2013 season.
So far, only two tracks have been offered deals: Woodbine and Mohawk, with more being announced “in the coming weeks” according to McMeekin’s office.
“They’re out meeting with the tracks now,” Craitor said. “Each one of them is different. The models are generally the same but the financial part is different. In most cases you are talking with an owner, but in this case (Fort Erie) you are talking to a tenant. So I just don’t know.”
Thibert said the track would need to know one way or another by March 31 if it hopes to have everything in order to operate a horse racing season this year.
Craitor said he went through the entire file with Wynne. He described her reaction as sympathetic, but added she made no commitments one way or the other.