The Board of Directors of Saskatchewan Standardbred Horsemen's Association (SSHA) recently met with Saskatchewan Liquor & Gaming (SLGA) Minister Donna Harpauer to request support for harness racing in Saskatchewan.
SSHA President Glenn Le Drew released the following statement regarding the meeting.
"I thought the meeting went very well. Donna was very gracious with her time and we had very good discussions. We felt it was important that we present our side of the story and she seems very understanding of the situation and aware of what is at stake - our future.
"There is not one but two popular breeds of racehorses in the Saskatchewan horse racing industry. Harness racing has a rich culture and history in this province spanning over 100 years and we have two harness tracks (Regina and Yorkton) that are committed to seeing it grow. We have many racing participants that are third generation horsemen. There is a large core group of owners and race fans who travel to both southern Saskatchewan harness tracks to see their horses race. Attendance and wagering on harness racing in the province are on the rise and the positive feedback from race fans has been tremendous.
"All we are asking, in the face of the funding cuts, is that we share the same tools as the thoroughbreds and have the same opportunity to continue. Just give our harness tracks the same tools as the thoroughbred track (Saskatoon) and this is easily achieved by reinstating the previously mutually agreed upon Home Market Areas to the way they were before.
"With the Home Market Areas reset to the previous boundaries (Davidson north for thoroughbreds, and Davidson south for standardbreds), both industries would have the same opportunity to generate their own revenues for their live racing programs. This is the way it was intended to be when Home Market Areas were established by the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency (CPMA).
"These designated surrounding areas would provide industry generated income (off-track betting) to support the live tracks in those respective areas. It only makes sense that the Regina and surrounding area be licensed by the Regina track so that the money generated can help support the live racing program in Regina.
"Donna is certainly aware of the issues and said that Cabinet would be involved in the final decision. We have asked for a decision in a timely manner since our tracks have limited time to raise the funding through the Home Market Area for racing which typically begins in Saskatchewan in later May.
"This province is plenty big enough and rich enough to serve both industries over two Home Market Areas, just as it has for decades. Our Board is confident that our government will do the right thing and ensure that these concessions or provisions are made to ensure equal opportunity for both standardbred and thoroughbred racing in Saskatchewan."
Below is a copy of the presentation that SSHA reviewed with Minister Harpauer.