Fallout From SK Cuts To Racing

Published: April 10, 2012 02:19 pm EDT

Segments of Saskatchewan's horse-racing industry have made their voices heard in the past few days, as mainstream media articles regarding provincial austerity measures have come out in the press. "It was actually really something," West Meadows Raceway President Jane Grainger has been quoted as saying. "With the budget we had received a letter on how good we had done, a pat on the back."

Grainger's comments have come courtesy of an article by newstalk650.com, which explains that the provincial industry is facing the prospect of lost jobs and a slow-down in local economies due to the government's pulling of horse-racing funding.

The Saskatchewan Government recently announced that it will be cutting the $1.5-million in annual funding, effective 2013. The news clearly sent a shockwave through the province's horse-racing industry, leading many to think the worst.

"Without the help of the government, I could see the standardbred industry probably going on a slow death," the newstalk650.com article has quoted standardbred horse owner Gerry Hagenaars as saying.

Although there is understandably an overwhelming amount of concern, some, like Prairieland Park CEO Mark Regier, are of the position that this is just the first phase of a negotiation process for future support for Saskatchewan horse racing. Prairieland Park is home to Marquis Downs.

"I think there's some negotiation in this, and I think the government will be, I hope will be, receptive to that, otherwise we might look at other types of support for the industry;" said Regier, who went on to say, "I think that we will be negotiating and discussing the future of racing with them (the provincial government) over the next few months and think we will come up with a strategy that will work."

Although there is hope that a negotiation process will take place, the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, at least officially, is not taking that stance. A report by saskatoonhomepage.ca has cited David Morris of the SLGA as saying that the decision to pull the funding in 2013 has been made and that there are no plans to negotiate the change.

A third article, this one by the Leader-Post, has quoted Saskatchewan Standardbred Horsemen's Association President Glenn Le Drew as saying that, "We're just not certain how everything is going to shake out yet (for 2013)."

The Leader-Post article also quotes Grainger as saying that $857,000 of the $1.5-million funding comes directly from wagers on horse racing, and that has been given back to the racing industry for as long as she remembers.

"Mr. Wall (Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall) speaks often about 'the Saskatchewan Advantage,'" Grainger said. "Well, what about the large number of horses that will be negatively impacted by this government's actions --- not to mention horse owners, trainers, drivers, grooms, other businesses such as veterinarians, tack shops, feed suppliers, farriers, livestock and equipment dealerships? These are people from all around Regina, Saskatoon, Yorkton, Swift Current, Kindersley, Davidson, McNutt, and more. We have race fans and horsemen that come here from BC, Alberta, and Manitoba. This generates a lot of money throughout our province."