Future of Hiawatha racetrack in limbo
Published Wednesday, April 17, 2013 7:04PM EDT
The cancellation of the slots at race-track revenue sharing deal has taken a big bite out of the horse racing industry.
Now, with time running out to get the spring and summer season underway, the Hiawatha Horse Park in Sarnia, Ont. is still waiting for the province to approve its schedule.
"We've lost a lot of money, this is costing a small fortune," says owner Jim Henderson.
The Ontario Racing Commission has approved a race date schedule for 15 tracks across Ontario, but missing from that list is Hiawatha.
Henderson says 150 employees and 700 horsemen are now in limbo as a result.
"I was basically told we're excluded, they're not going to negotiate with you at this time. Every time we go to do something it's the same thing, Hiawatha you're excluded, you're not even part of the deal," Henderson says.
The concerns over Hiawatha come as Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) undergoes a major modernization process. Part of the plan is to turn casinos like the Point Edward charity casino over to private operators.
Last year, OLG shut down the Hiawatha slots facility, putting 260 people out of work.
Mayor Mike Bradley suggests the real reason for the lack of decision on Hiawatha has more to do with the casino.
"It's really meant to enhance the gaming facility they have in Point Edward which is up for sale. By eliminating the slots, and then the race dates, they increase the value of that particular site."
Bradley has sent a letter to the premier and racing commission urging a quick decision on Hiawatha.
Meantime, if a deal for the Sarnia track is not reached in short order, the sound of horse racing may be silent at Hiawatha.