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Aiming For Gaming Integration

Published: December 16, 2013 4:06 pm ET

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"Unlike the racetracks out in Ontario that were in existence before gaming came in, where they either retrofitted a slot floor into the facility like Woodbine or built a completely standalone facility that's attached like Georgian Downs, this is going to be an all in one facility. One building that's built from the ground up, so the gaming floor, the racing portion, the's all going to flow instead of being disconnected."

Paul Ryneveld is the Special Projects Coordinator for Century Casinos -- the company developing the new racetrack in Balzac, Alberta -- and is no stranger to horse racing in Western Canada. Ryneveld was the simulcast and stakes coordinator at New Mexico’s Sunland Park from 1998 to 2000, then left to become assistant GM at Great Lakes Downs in Michigan. He returned to Sunland as Director of Operations in 2001, remained there until he accepted the position of Director of Racing at Emerald Downs in January, 2004, and three years later went to Fairplex in southern California.

He then returned to Hastings Racecourse in British Columbia -- a track where he started as an intern in the racing office -- as that track's Director of Racing in 2008 before taking the position with Century last year. Ryneveld talked to Trot Radio's Norm Borg about the racetrack project that is finally coming to fruition after the United Horsemen of Alberta were initially issued a racing and entertainment centre license over a decade ago.

The project will be the only horse racetrack in the Calgary area and will consist of a 5.5 furlongs (0.7 miles) racetrack and a racetrack entertainment centre, including a gaming floor offering 550 gaming machines, a bar, a lounge, restaurant facilities and an off-track betting area. According to Ryneveld, racing will get a cut of gaming proceeds.

"Horse Racing Alberta manages that money that is generated at the various racing and entertainment centres," said Ryneveld. "In Alberta, the lion's share - 51.5% - of the slot win goes to Horse Racing Alberta. Horse Racing Alberta then splits that up amongst the breeds, the breeders, the operators of facility. They determine who gets what from that portion."

Many have wondered about the odd track size, roughly charting in at 11/16 miles, or one-eighth of a mile larger than a conventional five-eighths mile track. Ryneveld was able to explain the reason.

"It is an unusual distance -- it's five and a half furlongs -- and people ask 'why wouldn't you just go with a five-eighths track if you couldn't do anymore?' There is enough room on the land to fit a larger distance -- six, six and a half -- seven will not fit on the land. But if you went to six and a half you would not be able to run Standardbreds because they'd be breaking on the turns.

"As a result, to try to get something that was a little bit longer than a five-eighths, we have the radius of the turns spread a little better than a typical five-eighths track so that will help things and we will have a 80-foot wide it will be a little safer as well."

The track's dual chute configuration will allow for two-turn, seven and a half furlong races -- "practically a mile" according to Ryneveld.

To list to the full interview between Ryneveld and Borg, click the play button below.

Trot Radio - Episode 311 - Paul Ryneveld of Century Downs Racetrack & Casino
Audio Format: MP3 audio
Host: Norm Borg

The opinions expressed are those of the participants and do not necessarily represent those of Standardbred Canada.

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