B.C. horse tracks to get bigger cut from slots

British Columbia’s two horse racing tracks will get a larger share of the slot machine revenues at their facilities, in a bid by the province for the "successful revitalization of the industry."

Rich Coleman, the provincial minister responsible for gaming, announced Thursday the Crown-owned B.C. Lottery Corp. will allocate 25 per cent of on-track slot revenue to the facilities starting in the 2013 racing season, up from 15.5 per cent now.

That hike is expected to increase the total slot revenue to about $10 million for B.C.’s two racing tracks, Fraser Downs at Surrey and Hastings Racecourse near Vancouver’s PNE Fairgrounds. Both "racinos" are operated by Richmond-based Great Canadian Gaming Corp.

The added revenue, the province said, will go to "ensuring that purse amounts are commensurate with industry standards and providing support for the continued success of the industry."

The move is thus expected to help create "stability" for an "important employment generator in the agricultural and entertainment industries," the province said.

The horse racing industry directly employs 3,600 people in B.C. and over 7,400 get some form of full-time, part-time or casual employment income from racing, the province said.

The province in 2009 set up a horse racing industry management committee to take charge of a new financial management structure for the province’s tracks starting in 2010.

The industry in B.C., like those in other provinces and states, "is confronted with competing entertainment attractions that necessitate new, innovative approaches to this sector," Coleman said at that time.

The committee said in March this year it would launch a review toward "establishing a predictable and sustainable model for B.C. horse racing."

The call for a review came in the wake of media reports at the time, stating Hastings Racecourse could close, after over 120 years in business, once its lease ran out in November.

Great Canadian Gaming and the City of Vancouver then agreed, in July, on a two-year extension to Great Canadian’s lease and operating agreement at the site, now effective up to November 2014.

"This agreement provides British Columbia’s horse racing industry with additional time to develop strategies that will strengthen its long-term sustainability," Great Canadian CEO Rod Baker said last month in the company’s third-quarter report.

Related stories:
Sask. to end parimutuel tax on horse race wagers, Oct. 11, 2012
Ont. horseracing sector will need ‘ongoing’ funds, panel says, Sept. 1, 2012

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