4 December 2007


I'm guessing the $300 million project has finally been exposed as a smoke and mirrors plan it always was. Why else would Fort Erie's CEO sound so pessimistic? I still hope that OLG does the right thing and give the horsemen (not Nordic) a bigger cut, not just for 2 years, but for at least 5 years.
The ownership (not the management) has never shown interest in the racing product, and hopefully they will exit before the race track turns into a giant landfill site.

Fort Erie Racetrack facing financial challenges


The future of Fort Erie Racetrack is grim, judging by plummeting pari-mutuels handles and a dwindling horse population at the pretty border track.

Last week, the 110-year-old track asked the Ontario Racing Commission for a reduction of only four days for next season, but they are Saturdays, and the request was accompanied by a story of a steep downward spiral.

"Fort Erie is facing significant financial challenges, threatening the sustainability and viability of future racing operations,'' said Bonnie Loubert, chief executive officer of Nordic Gaming, which owns the track.

Fort Erie is being threatened by a proliferation of slot and casino operations within a 90-mile radius of the track. While there were 2,800 slot machines (VLTs) in the area in 2003, there will be a projected 18,000 in 2008.

They also face U.S.-Canada border issues. Issues of identification, and tourism traffic across the border, the devalued U.S. dollar, a smoking ban at the track and the negative trend of the wagering handle have caused Fort Erie's fortunes to plummet "at an accelerated rate,'' Loubert said.

Slot revenues at Fort Erie have experienced a 72 per cent decline from the peak period in 2002, and the wagering handle has also dropped 64 per cent.

Recently, Fort Erie mayor Doug Martin sent out an open letter asking residents of the region to push the government into supporting the track. He said the problems facing the Fort Erie are happening on the eve of a $300-million private sector development at the track, including a 350-room hotel, a large entertainment complex and more than 2,500 condo timeshare units. The racetrack is currently Fort Erie's largest employer. The racetrack closure would devastate the region, Martin said.

"For two years we have been unsuccessful in trying to convince the Ontario Lottery Corporation to address … the unique situation facing border racetracks,'' he said.

Since 2002, the purses have dropped by about $14.5-million at Fort Erie, and the average purses per day has fallen to a projected $110,000 a day in 2008 from $197,000 in 2002.

It's also becoming more difficult to attract race horses to the track. While 1,100 horses were stabled at Fort Erie in 2006, only 800 horses had stalls on the backstretch last year, with the numbers dropping to 500 by the end of the season.

Because of this, Fort Erie's entries in races declined to 6.8 horses per race in 2007 from 7.53 last year. The smaller the field, the less money is wagered.

With the decreasing horse population, it became more difficult for Fort Erie to run a four-day a week racing schedule. Saturdays proved to be their least profitable day, with competition from other tracks on the continent.

Fort Erie has had its best days on Mondays and Tuesdays because fewer tracks in North America are open those days, and punters turn to Fort Erie for some action.

Therefore, Fort Erie is dropping four Saturdays. Next year, they will offer only 80, rather than 84 days of racing. In 2001, the track offered 108.

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CTHS Winter Sale A Disaster The prices were horrendous. If it wasn't for vouchers that were accumulated by owners throughout the year, the prices would have been even worse. The breeding program in Ontario is completely broken, and the people at the top who have made past decisions need to leave. Lack of state bred claiming races is one of the biggest problems I see. It is expensive for an owner to get a weanling or a yearling to the races. The majority don't race until they are 3, if they race at all. And the only owners who get rewarded are the ones who have horses who can compete at the allowance levels. There are not enough "outs" for owners of Ontario breds. And why buy an Ontario bred yearling when you can claim a proven horse for $10,000 and possibly compete for state bred allowance. If they had $20,000 state bred claiming races, a good prospect is likely to lose a condition in such a race, making it less likely to be claimed, and it gives the owner a good shot to recover most of their money, if it isn't quite allowance caliber. And again, by having $5,000 and $10,000 state bred races with enhanced purses pushes up the price of all Ontario bred horses, because the cheapest Ontario bred horse increases.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

in reply to the grim report on ft erie track.the main problem is poor management.they should advertise more.they should also have 1dollar days.like they do in the states.which means every mon and tues.everything is a dollar.that includes.hot dogs,cokes ,beer,programs.popcorn.and as far as the casino goes they have the worst food at high prices.they should have a nice buffet.and anybody that plays for a half an hour at any machine should get a free buffet.they should go to any harrahs casino and track and they can learn how to run a track and casino.