A crowd of around 150-200 ready for the January 15th due date decision as to whether racing will happen at Fort Erie in 2009:
MPP Kim Craitor, not looking very happy, tells the crowd to blame him for the due date of January 15th, as he was confident he would have a deal done by today. He says he is still hopeful that a deal with the government will happen soon enough to give the horsemen enough time to make arrangements to stay at Fort Erie:
I think almost everyone is in agreement that Nordic needs to go. They can't have a clue how to run the business if their expenses are really losing $12 million a year (that is supposedly before interest charges on an alleged large loan). When tracks like Beulah and River Downs can run 100 days a year each without a $4 million buffer from slots, and most likely do not lose money (though I don't know for sure), either Ontario makes it impossible for businesses to make money, or the track is poorly managed.
Problem is that Nordic has allegedly asked too much for the place. If slots remain open without racing, they most likely would be profitable, so they don't seem to be in any rush to panic. If the slots close, then they have a white elephant, and they will still have to cut checks for things like property taxes. And right now, I don't think Nordic aka El-Ad aka Delek is prepared to write any checks whatsoever.
How much is a business, with no income and 300 plus acres of industrial land, in a community that will be partially disbanding, that can't even support 3 grocery stores right now, worth?
The only two answers to satisfy horsemen right now will probably come from a government bail-out. But Nortel didn't get a bail-out when they recently asked.
The other solution has David Willmot biting the bullet and buying back the track. He can ride in on his white horse, and show how much he really cares about racing in Ontario. Woodbine Entertainment is, after all, a non profit organization, right? They are supposed to be the leaders in HORSE RACING in Canada, not slots, not casino games, and not sports bars. A track that loses two or three million a year should easily become profitable under Willmot's fine team (OK, maybe that is asking a lot), but they can still afford to take a $3 million a year hit and still offer huge purses at Woodbine.
Lets not forget that when the OJC sold Fort Erie for $10 and assumption of a $3 million debt to Nordic, Woodbine was struggling themselves. The only thing Woodbine struggles with now is catching up to the 21st Century when it comes to competing for todays gambler's business.
One thing is for sure, lack of horse racing in Fort Erie will completely devastate the town's economy.
I know other solutions are being brought to the table. But their viability and the time it takes to implement any of these might not save Fort Erie in time for a 2009 season, at the very least.
For instance, Fort Erie Mayor Doug Martin is going to Toronto on Monday or Tuesday with some sort of plan, though he and EDTC GM James Thibert didn't elaborate on what it was.
See also Town Bringing Fight For Racetrack To Toronto