The Ontario Gaming and Lottery Corporation has reached an agreement with eight racetracks in Ontario – including Sudbury Downs – that will keep gaming facilities open until new casinos are built.
Sudbury Downs owner Pat MacIsaac confirmed Jan. 23 that a tentative deal is in place.
“We signed a letter of intent with them to continue operating the slots,” MacIsaac said, adding it’s a straight rental agreement, with the OLG paying a certain amount to rent space.
“There was no percentage revenue sharing. The OLG always maintained from the start of this process that they were going to get into commercial rental arrangements,” he said. “But understand, it’s a letter of intent, which is kind of like an agreement to agree.”
The province hopes to finalize the agreements by Feb. 28. The old deal between cites, racetracks and the OLG expires at the end of March.
“There’s still work to be done,” is all MacIsaac would say when asked what is needed to get a final deal in place.
In addition to Sudbury, the province has struck tentative deals with: Rideau Carleton Raceway; Hanover Raceway; Woodstock Raceway; Dresden Raceway; Clinton Raceway; and two tracks owned by Woodbine Entertainment Group — Woodbine Racetrack and Mohawk Racetrack.
In addition to lease deals, the province has also signed an agreement with the Woodbine group on transitional funding that would allow horseracing to continue even after the current deal expires at the end of March.
Under the existing agreement, the Downs and the horsemen split 20 per cent of net slot revenue, the city receives five per cent and the province keeps the rest.
After March 31, the city will receive 5.25 per cent of the first $65 million in gambling revenue, three per cent of the next $145 million, and 0.5 per cent of any revenue above that. The Downs and the horsemen will get none of the gambling revenue.
Track officials across the province – including in Sudbury — have said the end of the slots deal will mean the end of racing. The transition funding is aimed at helping tracks find ways to stay open after the slots deal ends.
MacIsaac said he’s had preliminary talks with officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, which is handling the transitional funding negotiations.
“But they’ve been focusing on the Woodbine Mohawk situation … so we have no agreement with them as yet,” he said.
“But understand, it’s a letter of intent, which is kind of like an agreement to agree.
owner of Sudbury Downs
While there are no plans to offer racing again in Sudbury, MacIsaac says he’s not ruling it out.
“We’ve left that door open,” he said. “We’ve had discussions with the (ministry), but again, there’s no agreement in principle or otherwise that has been reached. And we have no knowledge of the details of the agreement reached with the Toronto racetrack.”
He’s heard the Woodbine deal is expected to become a template for other agreements. But Susan Murray, who’s with the communications branch of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, said they’re releasing few details about the agreement.
“I can say it’s not just for racing this year, it’s supposed to help them into the future, as well,” Murray said. “We’re not releasing the dollar figure right now, because negotiations with other racetracks are going on right now, and we don’t want to impact those negotiations.”
Scott Blodgett, who works in communications with the Ministry of Finance, which is handling the actual negotiations, said they hope to have deals in place soon with other tracks.
“The government will continue to engage racetracks in the coming weeks to confirm participation and finalize agreements with those that will receive support,” Blodgett said.
“We are not giving specifics right now. Basically all we’re saying is we’re working to finalize agreements.”