Update On Kawartha Downs

Published: May 6, 2018 01:09 pm EDT

Late last week, Kawartha Downs General Manager Orazio Valente and Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Jeff Leal offered some comments in regard to the Peterborough-area raceway.

According to an article by The Peterborough Examiner, Kawartha Downs was one of three Ontario racetracks that did not meet the May 1 deadline to sign on to the long-term funding agreement for the provincial racing industry.

According Leal, a Peterborough MPP, the agreement offered Kawartha Downs $200,000 annually over a three-year term -- $100,000 in order to increase purses and $100,000 to cover operating costs. Leal explained that those numbers were in addition to the $1.06 million that the track annually receives.

Leal told The Peterborough Examiner that he believes the deal is fair. He also pointed out that the province has created the Racetrack Sustainability Innovation Fund. The fund will feature $2 million annually over three years for four racetrack which have lost their associated casinos. Tracks can apply via business plan to access a portion of those funds.

Leal said that the government is willing to partner with Kawartha Downs, but it is up to the track to figure out how it is going diversify going forward.

"I have a great deal of confidence, based on my direction to set up this fund (the sustainability fund), that Kawartha Downs will be eligible," Leal said. "By working with OMAFRA they'll be able to secure funding for the kind of projects they want going forward. I can guarantee that because it's been set up with my direction."

Valente has voiced his concerns with The Peterborough Examiner. He has stated that he is concerned that Leal’s guarantees might not mean anything if the Minister loses his portfolio via a Liberal loss in the upcoming provincial election.

Valente has said that the issues at Kawartha go beyond live racing.

"I have a long-term tenant in the casino that is leaving October 31. That is the issue," Valente said. "That corresponds to 85 per cent of our revenue leaving and us not being viable with only 18 (race dates).

"On the casino side, I have long-term employees who are very concerned about their jobs. Despite the significant experience they have, and meeting the qualifications required by the AGCO to work in such a regulated environment, they have not been offered jobs by Great Canadian Gaming even though the casino is moving 10 minutes up the street. I was hoping that issue would get resolved."

The article also cites the fact that Kawartha only has one year left on its existing agreement if it doesn’t sign on to the proposed funding plan. Kawartha’s first scheduled race date for its 2018 live season is May 26. Valente has yet to commit to opening the meet.

Valente told The Peterborough Examiner that if Leal wants to help the track he has until May 7 to do so.

(With files from The Peterborough Examiner)