25 March 2006

Alberta gets 10 year slot deal

Alberta Gets 10-Year Slot Deal

March 24, 2006

Horse Racing Alberta has received word from the provincial government that the racing industry will receive a 10-year extension on its slot machine contract.

Today's Edmonton Sun reports that, providing HRA continues to meet its annual financial performance measures with the government, slot machines will continue to operate until at least 2015.

"Without this slot deal and the vision of this government, we would be racing for a third of the purses we are right now," Ted Billo, executive director of the Alberta Standardbred Horse Association, told Sun reporter Jonathan Huntington.

"And you would have to question if we would have an industry (right now)... if we would be racing for a third of (today's) purses."

Currently there are close to 1,000 slot machines divided between Alberta's four racetracks. The racing industry receives 51 per cent of the revenue from the majority of those machines, which in 2005 amounted to $41-million.

Prior to this announcement, only short-term contracts were in place that provided little stability for the industry.

"Everybody was sitting on the edge of their seat, wanting to know: is this an industry they can truly invest in?" said Dr. David Reid, HRA's chairman.

Reid said that he does expect some criticism about the Alberta government's choice to invest in racing rather than more money for education and health care.

"The contract is nothing about giving money. It simply says we can have the tools and make sure you use them wisely," he said. "We earn the money (through marketing and operating slots) and in the process we're supporting the Alberta Lottery Fund and generating an annual economic impact of $355 million.

"That means we have been able to give the government $9 for every $1 they invested in us," he explained, based on the $41-million generated by the slots last year.

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