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West Meadows To Close?

Published: February 26, 2013 4:49 pm ET

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The Minister responsible for horse racing in Saskatchewan, the Honourable Donna Harpauer, advised the West Meadows Raceway board of directors today that all revenues generated from horse racing in the form of teletheatres and telephone account betting in the province would be allotted to Prairieland Park in Saskatoon.

This includes revenues from simulcast and telephone betting made in Regina.

”It’s just so hard to believe. We have worked so hard for so long for it to come to this,” stated West Meadows Raceway President Jane Grainger. "This will likely trigger the closure of the successfully opened Regina racetrack. “To be denied a home market area is just not right. We have not asked our government for money. We have done all the fund raising through share capital from 50 private investors who wanted to see harness racing return to Regina and continue to grow. We are currently the only track in Saskatchewan open to horsemen year-round for training. We knew that was required in order to see the industry grow.

"The fans and horsemen were delighted with the new facility and the race meets held at West Meadows. The crowds were fantastic and the average daily amount wagered almost tripled that wagered in Yorkton and exceeded daily amounts wagered at any harness racetrack in the province in the last ten years (including Prairieland Park in Saskatoon). This shows there is still substantial interest in horse racing and wagering in Saskatchewan and more specifically Regina.”

Home Market Area (HMA) was created by the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency to support and protect local racetracks and their live race programs. Being assigned a HMA allows a track to generate revenues to support live racing by setting up teletheatres and telephone account betting (TAB) accounts in their designated area.

Prior to 2002, Queensbury Downs and Prairieland Park mutually agreed that it would be fair to split the province for HMA and Saskatoon (the thoroughbred race program) would have HMA from Davidson north and Queensbury Downs (the Standardbred program) would receive HMA from Davidson south. When Queensbury Downs decided to change priorities and discontinue live horse racing, Prairieland Park purchased the teletheatre equipment from them and SLGA transferred the teletheatre license to Prairieland Park since Queensbury Downs was no longer able to operate the teletheatres without a live racing program.

The teletheatre license is issued by SLGA on an annual basis.

"Now that there is once again a track dedicated to live racing in Regina, does it really seem right that horseracing gambling dollars bet in Regina should go to support a Saskatoon track and not the Regina track? It only makes sense that the split at Davidson be reinstated and both industries receive the revenues generated from TAB and teletheatre wagering in their respective areas to continue to support live racing programs," said Grainger.

"By approving Home Market Areas to all applying racetracks both industries would have a level playing field and be in control of their funding and futures. Yes, the thoroughbred program would need to adjust but reinstating the pre-existing HMA boundaries would not eliminate the thoroughbred race program. However, not granting a Home Market Area for standardbred racing eliminates the primary and necessary funding source (now that the grant has been cancelled) and effectively decimates the 100-year-old harness racing industry. "

In 2012, the Government of Saskatchewan announced they would no longer provide grants to fund horse racing cutting all funding to the standardbred industry. Subsequent to that announcement, the pari-mutuel tax (revenues from this tax were used to help fund the horse racing grant) was eliminated. With West Meadows Raceway’s application for HMA being denied, the elimination of the tax benefits only Saskatoon and the thoroughbred racing program as they will be the sole beneficiary of all off track revenues for the entire province.

A racetrack in Regina provides another tourist attraction to the city as well as creating economic spin-off. Restaurants, hotels, casinos, service stations, equipment dealers (including trucks, trailers and agricultural equipment), veterinary services, farriers and feed suppliers all benefit from having live racing and a year-round training centre in the city.

"The building of this track supports the very message the Saskatchewan Government is trying to promote – 'Build in Saskatchewan, invest in Saskatchewan.' Well, we have done that and all we are asking is that revenues from wagers placed in the Regina area be used to support the live racing program in Regina.

"A Home Market Area for the Regina track just doesn’t seem like a lot to ask," concluded Grainger. "Unfortunately, if something doesn’t change here within the next few weeks regarding Home Market Area or Transition Funding, West Meadows Raceway may be forced to close."

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