26 January 2009
Deadline Extended By ORC On Fort Erie's Fate; Horsemen Hung Out To Dry
The ORC has extended Fort Erie's licence to the end of March, making today's drop dead date null and void. Nordic has until mid March to announce whether racing is a a go or not.
The government needs more to time to assess the proposal set forth by the Fort Erie EDTC.
Concerns about the proposed slots deal where Fort Erie lends 200 machines to Woodbine has been mentioned as a cause for delay. Well d'uh. First off, the EDTC wants to dictate that the machines would be theirs, and that they would get more than the amount every track in Ontario gets on slots (they are proposing 33% for each the OLG, Woodbine, and Fort Erie). If it was that easy, why not let Nordic lend the machines to Woodbine under that proposed agreement? That would take care of Nordic's supposed $3.2 million yearly deficit. And tax payers wouldn't have to dole out $35 million for a losing business on land that was assessed at $21 million, that would be worth maybe $7 million in a fire sale.
I don't see much of a difference having Nordic still own the place or the EDTC, who have the audacity to overprice the track tremendously to meet Nordic's extortion demands. I could just see how quickly they could deteriorate the situation if they were in charge, or had anything to do with hiring the "new" people in charge.
The horsemen are rightfully upset, as they have no clue what to do or where to go with their horses. The season is scheduled to begin the first week of May, and they need the track open for training by the middle of March. But that is only part of the problem because they have to apply for stalls elsewhere and contemplate selling their homes and/or moving. It is ugly.
Again, the only real solution for 2009 would be the OLG giving Fort Erie a special deal of 35% of slot profits for both the horsemen and Nordic.
It doesn't appear Woodbine is interested in buying Fort Erie, and it isn't likely that Nordic will sell the price for a fair price (much lower than $35 million).
Creatively, if the government were to get involved, they could back a deal where they hire a turnaround management company (with no risk to the turnaround company) to lease the track for 3-5 years from Nordic for a dollar. The government would be responsible to pay the turnaround company and be responsible for any losses incurred by the operations (keep in mind, the government could rationalize that they are doing their best to make the business profitable). This might be able to get around the government loophole where they say they can't control losses, so they can't guarantee the track breaks even. In the meantime, Nordic can look for someone to buy the track that they obviously don't want to run anymore.
UPDATE FROM ONTARIO HBPA:
ATTENTION FORT ERIE HORSEMEN
Any person wishing to convey their personal situation or feeling regarding the Fort Erie Racetrack Situation should put it in writing and then call Cara Lee at 905-871-1332.
She will make arrangements to get it to the proper authority.
See also Perry Lefko's article on the extension.
Niagara Falls Review story.
Another article by Lefko, this time in the Star.
Just a reminder. Go to the HANA blog and check out the top bettor friendly race tracks in North America. The countdown from 20 to number one has begun.