A $300-million redevelopment billed as the saviour to all that ails the Fort Erie Race Track has been shelved.
It was shelved before it made news in the first place. The plan made no sense when the economy wasn't gloom and doom, and finally thanks to bad economy, Nordic has come clean.
Nordic ownership is not stupid. They also must realize that recessions only last a year and half usually, so by the time they built the project, the economy would be starting up again. Shelving it now means shelving it forever.
Seriously, why would a company worrying about losses of a couple million a year (supposedly), spend $300 million. What kind of rate of return could they possibly expect by building a hotel and condos in a small town that can barely support two grocery stores?
I'm thinking this plan was a whim that was initiated by the Fort Erie's Economic Development and Tourism Corp(EDTC) shooting the crap with Nordic's management, and Nordic just went along with it, because it could help get a bigger sales price for Fort Erie Race Track, or maybe the government would be stupid enough to finance most of the project.
I'm starting to believe the EDTC and the Fort Erie mayor are either very gullible, very stupid, very corrupt, or a combination of the the three. Mayor Doug Martin has to be included in the mix too. He is coming across as an inept optimist as recently seen by the Save Our Hospital Campaign, which turned out to be another waste of time. I now doubt the auto track will ever break ground in Fort Erie either. The EDTC and Martin are too inept for something so big. The conditions are probably too overwhelming to ever be reality, and the Dubai group probably knows it too.
The reason I even bring up the EDTC is that they helped perpetuate this fantasy project, that was NEVER going to happen. The track could have been sold by now.
So What Happened To The Two Million Dollars The EDTC Squeezed Out Of The Government For The Feasibility Project?
I'd like to know the answer to that one. Apparently it was given to Nordic Gaming. Given to Nordic? How much did they spend? Do they get to keep the balance because they didn't officially call off the project completely, they only postponed it.
Did they spend the $2 million? Is there any accountability?
"We will apply ... we're looking for help from various stakeholders in the track," said Stephen Ayers, without elaborating on exactly what Nordic wants.
"We're looking at some sort of support. We've not worded it yet, it's an ongoing dialogue. It could be related stakeholders, (Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association), the town, the province."
It is only another 5 months before horsemen either come back to Fort Erie or don't. And Nordic isn't even sure what their exact goals are and how they will achieve those goals. Nordic has to go. How can they be trusted? It appears they have already fleeced the government out of $2 million for a feasibility study on a project that was insane to begin with.
That being said, I think a case could be made for the horsemen to get a bigger chunk of the OLG casino profits, because Fort Erie is a border track that supports many jobs, and it is one of only two thoroughbred tracks in Ontario, and it is needed as a place for owners to run horses who just can't compete at Woodbine. Without a B track, owners will not have an out anymore if their horse can't make it at Woodbine or if they don't like the Polytrack. Well, the only out is to take them to the US to run, and not only is that expensive, it gives the owner less incentive to even buy a horse with all the risks involved, owners need an outlet for slower horses in Ontario...and many owners get in the game to watch their horse run live, whether it at Woodbine or Fort Erie. Owners are important, because they are what keeps the backstretch in business.
I don't see a corporation making a case for a bigger cut to keep the corporation in business however. If the corporation can't make a profit, or at least break even, force it to change hands. Nordic never gave a rats ass about horse racing to begin with. They are real estate speculators first and foremost. They are opportunists. They took advantage of The Ontario Jockey Club's foolishness (I wonder if it was Willmot's decision) to get rid of Fort Erie for next to nothing just before slots were legalized. But Nordic was foolish too relying on slots to keep the place profitable. They didn't do a thing to grow the horse race betting side, and viewed the race track as a necessary evil (much like WEG views Woodbine horse racing with respect to betting growth).
Can Nordic Keep The Slots Open Without Having To Run Races At Fort Erie?
Don't expect a Niagara journalist to ask this type of question. Unfortunately, I haven't got an answer to this yet. Is there a loop hole that allows the slots to be open? If not, it might explain why Nordic applied conditionally for race dates. They still get to keep the profitable side of their business running until a final decision is made.
Lets say the answer is that they can keep the casino going. The government will still make a fortune from it, and Nordic will be somewhat profitable. This doesn't bode well for horse racing in 2009 and beyond. I wonder what the cut would be? Would Nordic get to keep 20% of the profits instead of 10%, or would the government get the extra 10% since the horsemen will no longer getting it.
Lets say the answer is that they can't keep the casino going. The track is industrial land. It is not feasible to put up a bunch of homes next the Peace Bridge truck fumes. And it is pretty hard to find a company or companies that are mid size or large that will be attracted enough to move to Fort Erie. So Nordic will have a lot of land that is next to worthless, unless they want to relocate the proposed auto track there, that is. Still, bare land in Fort Erie is still cheap to come by relatively, so Nordic won't get much either way if they sold it.
The only thing that makes sense is for another buyer to come along. One that will try to make the horse racing side work. The OLG will support a new buyer because if they can't operate the casino there, they will be out quite a lot of dough. I don't think they would give Nordic that much support considering Nordic's track record of near extortion (saying they won't run unless they get a handout).
It makes sense for Woodbine to buy the track. Isn't Woodbine a non profit organization anyway? They can afford to absorb a small loss in order to keep the B Track in business. What about turning a profit? Surely, WEG can turn a small loss into a profit....LOL...well, not with their current monkey management, and they know it.
FORT ERIE HANDLE DOWN
Like almost every other track in North America:
FORT ERIE, Ontario - Total handle from all sources on the live Fort Erie meet this year, with its 80 live racing days used in a direct comparison with the corresponding number in the 84-date 2007 season, dropped 9 percent from just under approximately $71.5 million to slightly over $65 million.
Overall, the average daily handle was off $80,869 per day, a corresponding 9 percent drop.
The average daily ontrack handle declined from $81,148 to $67,757, down 16.5 percent.
Cutting out Saturdays was probably responsible for almost half of this drop. But Saturdays are a very bad overall handle day.
Offtrack handle on Fort Erie races averaged $745,547, down 8.3 percent from last year's $813,026.
Purse distribution was up from last year, as an increase from $8.7 million to $9.4 million gave horsemen an additional $680,740 in 2008, a 7.8 percent increase.
That is surprising. The extra money didn't come from betting, it must have come from slots, or money that was accumulated from the year before.
Other statistics of interest included an identical number of average runners per race in both seasons, 7.8 horses per race. The number of races run dropped from 745 to 725 in 2008 and total number of runners dropped from 5,799 to 5,642, down 2.7 percent.
Runners were probably down more than they should have because the decision to race came early last year which was late for many horsemen.
Horse racing is trending down in North America at an alarming rate. New horseplayers and new owners (most are introduced to the game because they bet first) are not being created because the game in not competitive with other forms of gambling today (The cost to players ie takeout, is beyond excessive, so nobody wins, and since nobody wins, no buzz is created causing other people to give it a go).
Tracks are closing. The economy is the final nail in the coffin possibly for Fort Erie Race Track.
Fort Erie needs to be sold, or I'm afraid, it will vanish, unless the OLG caves in and gives the owner an unprecedented bigger share of the casino profits.