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Alberta Lauds Ten-Year Agreement

Published: November 6, 2017 2:56 pm ET

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Alberta is now two years into a landmark agreement between the provincial government and the horse racing industry, and both sides are adamant that the ten-year deal is working well for each of them.

There was an informal celebration of the milestone this past Saturday afternoon (November 4) when provincial finance minister Joe Ceci paid a visit to Century Downs in Balzac.

“It’s nice to see Thoroughbred racing back in the Calgary market,” Ceci told the audience. “When I served on Calgary city council, my ward was adjacent to Stampede Park. I was sorry to see the sport leave Calgary after 2008. I’m glad to see it return and I’m glad our government has had a chance to help make that happen.”

In a statement, Ceci noted the industry employs about 1,600 people directly. That number expands to more than 7,000 when related to suppliers, breeders and others, primarily in rural areas of Alberta. And in terms of economic activity, the numbers are an important part of the agri-business books and of the economies of dozens of rural communities.

At its best, the racing and breeding industry generated about $400 million of economic activity a year. That number slumped to about $255 million annually following the shutdown of racing at Stampede Park in 2008. A lot of the damage was done to businesses in southern Alberta.

The most recent numbers from the province suggest a $290 million economic impact annually. That number is on the rise and will be helped by the growing strength of Century Downs and by next year’s opening of the new Century Mile racetrack and racing entertainment centre in Leduc. All of that is a function of the stability brought to the industry by the signing of the new agreement last year.

“Thoroughbred racing returning to the Calgary area was brought about by the ten-year funding agreement and the confidence and long-term stability that agreement brought to the industry,” Horse Racing Alberta’s chief executive, Shirley McClellan, explained. “It’s the same confidence that led to a $50 million investment decision to build the new Edmonton area racetrack.”

“The ten-year funding agreement has brought a new sense of optimism and desire for investment into capital, infrastructure and horse population in Alberta,” said Paul Ryneveld, general manager of Century Downs. “Alberta is now poised to be a leader in horse racing in western Canada, and that is directly attributable to the confidence and sustainability the funding agreement provides.”

Under the agreement, Horse Racing Alberta receives a share of slot machine revenues from the racing entertainment centres. In 2017-2018, the forecast is that share should be worth about $35 million. Not one cent of that money is tax money. The province’s share of proceeds is administered through Alberta Gaming & Liquor and supports thousands of volunteer and community organizations throughout the province. Horse Racing Alberta’s share is divided among the various breeds to help with purses, breeders’ bonuses, backstretch programs, and marketing.

“We think we can grow the numbers,” says McClellan. “The new facility in Leduc, when it comes on stream in the fall of next year, is going to be really important to the industry.”

(Horse Racing Alberta)

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