I think everybody involved in thoroughbred racing in Ontario knows, from the trained monkey execs at Woodbine right down to the owners, trainers, and breeders, how devastating Fort Erie's closing would be on the industry.
If you want to call Woodbine an A track, Ontario needs a B track. If, like most Americans, you want to call Woodbine a B track, Ontario needs a C track.
Owners, trainers, and breeders need an out in Ontario for horses who just can't cut it at Woodbine, whether the reason is that the horse does not like polytrack, or that the horse isn't fast enough, has lost a few steps, is out of form, or is on the sore side and has problems competing against classier competition, Fort Erie is needed to fill the void.
Otherwise, the only out an owner has is to go to the trouble of either selling the horse for probably peanuts (which will drive down the dismal thoroughbred market even more), or finding an outfit at a US dirt track, and go to the expense of shipping and racing there. Of course, many owners like to see their horses run live, and many do show up at Fort Erie even though they have to trek 100 miles to get there. Most of these owners won't trek 300 plus miles though, and they will lose more interest in the sport.
They've basically conceded that they have no business running a race track. How can they lose money, when tracks like Beulah and River Downs can run more than Fort Erie, have comparable handle, and have $4 million less going into their pockets from slots than what Fort Erie is receiving (Ohio doesn't have slots)?
Unfortunately, Nordic has always wanted more for the joint than what it is worth. What is a company that loses $3 million a year worth anyway? The asset they have is the land, and if the track closes the land is also worth next to nothing.
Either Woodbine (who I hear is not interested in buying The Fort) or another party, would give the track an opportunity to be around for a long long time.
THE OLG GIVES THE TRACK AND THE HORSEMEN 7.5% EACH EXTRA FROM THE CASINO PROFITS
This is the ideal solution for the owner (Nordic), and the horsemen. Fort Erie could use a boost in purses. Compared to Woodbine, they run for peanuts. $3 million extra in purses would make the backstretch economy run much smoother, it would attract bigger fields, and it could attract more betting.
The $3 million for Nordic is exactly what they are trying to
The problem with this idea is that other tracks will bitch, including Woodbine most likely.
Fort Erie can make the case that they are the only other thoroughbred track in Ontario, and they also happen to be a border town. Their existence, as pointed out above is important in keeping the thoroughbred horse industry in Canada at a status quo. Not to mention how devastating Fort Erie's closure would be to the town of Fort Erie.
THE OLG GIVES NORDIC A $3 MILLION A YEAR BAIL OUT LOAN
The most popular term these days seems to be "bail out." Now that the Canadian government has announced that the Auto Industry is getting a $4 billion aid package, a $3 million aid package for Fort Erie shouldn't seem out of the question.
Here is how my plan would work:
The OLG loans Nordic $3 million a year for five years. This keeps Fort Erie's cash flow even. After, the five years, Nordic has to start paying off the loan $1 million a year.
Nordic must put on at least 70 racing days a year.
Nordic has 5 years to turn the track into a profitable business.
In the meantime, they can sell the track, but the new owner has to take over the liability to the OLG.
After 5 years, if the $1 million pay back gets defaulted at any time, the track becomes OLG property.
In essence, that would mean Nordic would get $15 million as a sales price from the OLG if they decide to walk in 5 years.
Would Nordic agree to this? It is better than just having the property sit there. And they would have an even cash flow, so they wouldn't have to go into their pockets. Of course, if they have an option to keep the slots open and rake in their 10% without running a race, they will choose that until the cows come home.
Would the OLG agree to this? Again, it is to their best interest, if they have to close the casino without racing. That is the big issue, and it is still unclear as to whether they can stay open or not.
Could Nordic turn the place profitable in 5 years? I know I could make them profitable in one year. Maybe they need to hire me:)