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Racing At Western Fair In Jeopardy

Published: December 20, 2018 11:29 am ET

Last Comment: December 31, 2018 11:39 pm ET | 14 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Gateway Casinos announced Wednesday (Dec. 19) that they will be moving their casino operation out of Western Fair District. This comes after months of negotiations between the two companies and the City of London.

“We’re not shocked but we are disappointed. Our preference would have been to have Gateway remain here,” explained Western Fair’s President Hugh Mitchell.

The announcement leaves the future of harness racing at Western Fair in jeopardy and impacts thousands of people as Standardbred racing at The Raceway generates an economic impact of more than $50 million and supports well over 5,000 jobs in the region.

Horse racing has been an integral part of the fabric of the community in London and surrounding areas for decades. Many of the sport's greatest athletes, human and equine, began their careers at The Raceway at Western Fair.

“We have made both the OLG (Ontario Lottery and Gaming) and the Ford government aware of the level of financial support needed to continue our racing operation if Gateway relocates. We are currently waiting for the government’s response to our formal request for long-term funding support,” Mitchell added.

(Western Fair)

December 31, 2018 - 11:39 pmSports betting (in game

Sports betting (in game betting) means fans can bet on specific plays nearly in REAL TIME. Will the Leafs score on the pending power play? THERE WILL BE A LINE INSTANTLY. Will Kyle Lowry miss this next free throw? Fans are a couple of taps away from placing a bet. Will the Raptors make a basket on their next possession? There will be odds for that, too — and everything imaginable over the course of the game, potentially keeping fans engaged at the times when the action LULLS and games turn DULL. Horse racing has a LULL, 20 minutes between EVERY race, plus post drag and mutual betting where odds could go to 1-9 .Five states have cleared the way for sportsbooks, and more than 20 others, plus the District, are debating legislation and could start taking bets in the coming year.

Did I mention FIXED ODDS BETTING, where bettors are LOCKED into the odds they bought ticket at,as opposed to horse racing (mutual betting) where your 4-1 might go to 1-9 by post time.

Bring in EXCHANGE BETTING or horse racing will get decimated by sports betting.

What do you got to lose?

December 30, 2018 - 12:56 pmAfter reading several

After reading several negative comments about the future of horse racing at WFR, I am empowered to comment further. We all know that this situation was created by the corrupt McGuinty/Duncan government. However, we can't take yesterday back, so what is the solution? Rather than sit back and regurgitate history, let's offer some positive solutions. One solution might be to allow the tracks to install their OWN slot machines and live table games and eliminate the gambling conglomerates completely, whose profits end up out of the country. After all, the existing infrastructure at the tracks is still in place. We don't need Gateway or any other gambling organization. Let's invest in our own local economy and keep the profits in our own communities.
Another solution might be to revert back to a revenue sharing agreement that was very successful and fair for all parties involved. Naturally there would have to be accountability rules invoked with full financial disclosure to protect all parties.
It's always easy to be critical but a lot more constructive to offer solutions. If anyone has any other ideas, please submit them and let's solve this problem with some positive and viable solutions. I've always argued in the past that we need to be a self supporting and self governing entity... not government welfare recipients.

December 24, 2018 - 2:46 pmWith adversity comes

With adversity comes opportunity. The real problem is that gamblers don't want to focus on a wager where their time and knowledge leads to a small payoff from a small pool with a large takeout. They want to be able to invest their time and knowledge into a pool with a small takeout where the buy-in is small and the payout is potentially large.

We have to stop focusing on the problem and focus on the solution.

The solution is partnering with Fan Dual or Draft Kings, experts in gambling. Who are their current partners? NBA, NHL, MLB, NFL plus other sports like pro golf. All of these sports are growing exponentially because they are offering gamblers what they want and these sports are growing because the gamblers want to watch not only their teams, but other teams that their fantasy players are on. This leads to TV revenue because advertisers want live TV, as people don't usually PVR it.

I believe that it is possible to become relevant but fundamental changes are needed.

December 24, 2018 - 12:26 amThe first nail was put in the

Tom Ford SAID...

The first nail was put in the coffin with a 10 year deal to let people discover slots over racing. A lifetime deal was needed.

December 22, 2018 - 2:27 pmYou are so right on John.

You are so right on John. Don't know why casinos were ever allowed without contributing to racing. Gateway is just too big - taking over everything in every city. And yes, one representative association for all horsemen, a strong association with loyal members. Enough of the nonsense.

December 22, 2018 - 10:11 amA few years ago Western Fair

Johnny Kish SAID...

A few years ago Western Fair looked at the possibility of expanding the track to a 5/8 mile track. They have also looked at renovating the grandstand. Now would be the time to work with Gateway to move and build a new 5/8 track and modern customer friendly (enclosed for comfort in the winter) facility.

December 22, 2018 - 8:36 amI say good good riddance to

John Hill SAID...

I say good good riddance to casino owners, greedy companies with no desire to be in the racing business. There is a 20 year funding program in effect so no casino are needed. Take what the Ford government offers in the way of slots as a first step to independence. Hire Kelly Spencer to represent the industry in marketing and promotions. Time to take our industry back! Bring back OHHA as the sole representative of standardbred horsemen. Reopen backstretches to cut owners expenses (saves $400 stall rent, & $150 shipping times 3 or 4 times a month).

December 21, 2018 - 3:53 pmYou pretty much nailed it

ron francis SAID...

You pretty much nailed it Blair. When the OLG created their "bundles" and gave control to the casino operations, it marked the dawning of "Doomsday". Hard to imagine Ontario racing not grinding to a slow death (3-7yrs), with possible exception of Woodbine. What chance does Rideau have with 70 or so race dates. Horsemen cannot begin to make meagre living with those dates.

December 21, 2018 - 2:15 pmAgain, back to the stupidest

Tom Ford SAID...

Again, back to the stupidest thing ever done. The original 10 year slots at racetracks agreement was the signing of their own death wish. Should have been a LIFETIME agreement.

December 21, 2018 - 1:34 pmYou had to see this coming.

Will Yamakva SAID...

You had to see this coming. There was never any deal that meant casinos were going to stay forever at racetracks, and the industry should have been prepared for this day to come. It seems by the empty grandstands I see the large majority of the time, and how the purses regularly exceed the handle at quite a few tracks, this time is starting to come. Now, Western Fair regularly has huge handle, but it shows that handle alone, isnt enough to run a race track. Horse racing alone, isnt enough to run a racetrack. Many things from the entertainment dollar we had in the 70s and 80s, are gone today or dying slowly. Arcades, bowling alleys and now horse racing are all going away because they failed to modernize and keep the numbers they once had. Bowling alleys that did figure it out, have bars, food, disco-bowling and other stuff. And many still have fallen by the wayside. Arcades, far fewer and failing to come up with bigger and better games, mean that many of them are now gone, and movie theaters have benefitted from this.

Harness racing needs to get fans to the track, as the golden goose is now gone.

December 21, 2018 - 12:14 pmThe time is now to protest

The time is now to protest against the relocation of the Casino. Western Fair has been a staple in London for years and all citizens of that City should vote "No" to the relocation. Keep all gaming in one place. OHHA start organizing and let our voices be heard. All HORSEPEOPLE let your voices be heard in all types of media, don’t sit back and let our industry take another blow. Our Industry employs more people than the Casinos and are good citizens of the community.lets stand together.

December 21, 2018 - 2:06 amThese comments won't be liked

These comments won't be liked but the truth is we have to be adults and responsible business minded people and stop always blaming the government for all our problems in the racing industry. Handout and deals is what we have become accustomed too. Every time there is a little bad news, blame the government, rinse, repeat.

Drivers bounce from this track to that track everyday flying or driving. They seem to be doing all right. They sure aren't stopping to promote their business and lively hood like other business people have to. Be innovative and such instead of asking for handouts and blaming everything else. As a group approach the tracks for lower takes and then increased revenue comes to the track and spirals down. The casino as a business has a right to make money as well and if it means there is a better deal elsewhere they should take it. maybe the track, trainers and drivers need to realize Hey we have to make the deal sweeter for the casino to stay instead of blame the casino for wanting to grow to greener pastures. I can guarantee if a deal came that tracks were offered more money, either by having the casino elsewhere or some other type of funding they would jump on it to. The SAME as the casino does.

Be like Anthony MacDonald and the stable and be creative or productive to work as a group to negotiate this and not whine whine whine about poor deals all the time or casinos pulling out.

I hope something is done that is great for the industry just like everyone else but I won't sit and complain that other industries should compensate ours all the time.

December 20, 2018 - 5:09 pmMr. Mitchell WHY couldn't an

chris cain SAID...

Mr. Mitchell

WHY couldn't an agreement be reached? Please explain.

I have investments in horses in the London and area, I don't want to sell, but, because of this decision, I now have to reconsider.

December 20, 2018 - 1:26 pmThe end is closer than ever.

The end is closer than ever. The objectives of McGuinty/Duncan and private casino interests et al are now almost completely achieved. They succeeded in breaking the control the racetracks had over their slot facilities and the funding that came with that business. Without the racetracks being allowed to be full scale gambling facilities it is impossible for them to compete with all the other gambling venues that have been constructed. There will be only one viable harness racing facility in Ontario in the end. Mohawk. Maybe Grand River and Rideau will survive but they will not be enough.

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