12/15/2008 1:00AM

Fort Erie gives termination notice


Nordic Gaming Corp., the owner and operator of Fort Erie Race Track, told employees at a meeting Monday that it appears the racetrack will not be able to continue live racing next year.

Darryl Wells, Fort Erie's director of media communications, said a total of 190 people involved with the horse racing side of the Fort Erie operation were told their employment would be terminated as of March 31, 2009.

"Notice was needed, and we had to come up with a date, to meet with labor regulatory rules," Wells said of the Monday announcement.

Racing officials, starting-gate crew, valets, maintenance, and concession workers would be among those affected.

Fort Erie has struggled in recent years, with declining revenue from its ontrack slot-machine program a major factor.

"The owners obviously don't want to absorb continuing losses," said Wells. "We've been meeting with the province, the city, and the industry stakeholders, and we'll continue to do so to see if a solution can be found."

Fort Erie had made an application to the Ontario Racing Commission for a 78-day meeting next year with a proviso that some form of assistance would be necessary to continue operating.

"I'm disappointed, in particular, with the province," said Sue Leslie, president of the Ontario Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "They've had ample time to know this was coming down.

"The government has to take their fair share of the blame for the drop in the slots revenue, for the competition it's put just down the road."

In 2004, the Ontario government opened a second major casino in nearby Niagara Falls.