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Track Offered VLTs; Declines

Published: April 17, 2014 9:20 am ET

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"They did offer us slot machines or VLTs; they offered us 12 VLTs. As a fair board, we just don't feel comfortable getting into that end of it."

Those words came from an interview Yorkton Exhibition GM Shaun Morin conducted with local radio station GX94. Morin shed light on negotiations his organization has had with the province of Saskatchewan. While tracks in other jurisdictions have begged and pleaded for expanded gaming at the racetrack, Saskatchewan's government has offered Yorkton Exhibition VLT terminals and these machines were respectfully declined.

"We don't think it's proper and in our best interest to start playing around with VLTs," said Morin on behalf of the Yorkton Exhibition Association.

In past years, the government had given a grant to help with purses. This year, the grant isn't on the table and all off-track betting goes into one home market area: Prairieland Park in Saskatoon, leaving YEA out of funding.

"We talked to the government this Spring to see if there wasn't a way to reinstate our grant to harness racing but at this point the answer's been a flat no. "

In a letter published last week, Morin called on supporters of Saskatchewan harness racing to contact their Member of Legislative Assembly to voice their concerns over the Province’s lack of support for the standardbred industry.

"Several years ago, you had to have 50 live race days within a province to have off-track betting -- and that law has since been taken out -- but that law was in there to make that live racing was always going to be viable and going to be there so we didn't just end up with off-track betting sites."

Both Yorkton and West Meadows Raceway were seeking a piece of the province's home market area to receive funding through off-track wagering. Both harness racing track were shut out.

“Following the announcement last year by SLGA, Marquis Downs in Saskatoon, home of Thoroughbred racing was awarded a three-year contract for 100 per cent of provincial off-track betting,” Morin wrote in his open letter. “That left Yorkton and harness racing with no tools to generate the needed funding to cover purse money and operating costs. The three-year licence secured funding for Marquis Downs for the future. In past years, the 10 per cent betting tax was shared by both breeds at approximately 72 per cent to Thoroughbred and 28 per cent to harness racing.”

To listen to Morin's interview with GX94's Brendan Pawliw, click the play button below.

(photo courtesy assiniboiadowns.com)


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