06/05/2012 6:02PM

Fort Erie to close permanently at end of this year

Email
Michael Burns
According to the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium, the track will be closing Dec. 31 after 115 years in operation

FORT ERIE, Ontario – Following its annual board meeting on Tuesday, an official from the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium said that Fort Erie Race Track would close permanently on Dec. 31.

The Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium board includes representation from the Ontario Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Fort Erie Race Track management, unions involved with racetrack operations, the town of Fort Erie, and the Fort Erie Economic Development and Tourist Corporation.

“We have the responsibility to determine whether future operations at this track can continue,” said Jim Thibert, chief executive officer of the racetrack and secretary/treasurer of the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium. “In the final analysis, without the needed funding of close to $6 million, the board resolved that the Fort Erie Race Track would formally close as of Dec. 31, 2012.”

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation announced this winter that slots operations would be shut down at Ontario’s racetracks by March 31, 2013. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation then announced that slot machines would be removed from the province’s three border racetracks – Fort Erie, Windsor Raceway, and Hiawatha Horse Park – on April 30, 2012.

The Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium submitted a business plan to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation under which the slots operation there could be privatized, but that possibility was erased when the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation announced the creation of 29 “gaming zones” in the province and Fort Erie was not among them.

Fort Erie Race Track, in its 115th year of operation and in the third year of a three-year lease agreement between the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium and Nordic Gaming, which owns the facility, is conducting an 81-day meeting.

This historic track’s first day of operation was Wednesday, June 16, 1897 and the final day of racing will be Oct. 30.

Thibert said that an application to extend Fort Erie’s license to March 31, 2013 will be sent to the Ontario Racing Commission.

“The simulcast parlor now in operation falls under our jurisdiction until the end of December and that extension will keep it in operation until the end of March,” said Thibert. 

Thibert also added that an extension to March 31, 2013, would allow for the possibility of additonal funds from government sources to be added to this year’s purse allocation.