05/25/2012 11:30AM

Fort Erie: Lottery Corporation rejects track's casino plan


FORT ERIE, Ontario – Jim Thibert, the chief executive officer of the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium has advised track management and horsemen that the consortium’s offer to privatize a local casino has not been accepted by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.

The Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium is in the final year of a lease agreement for the track with Nordic Gaming. It recognizes that without a percentage of casino profits or a government subsidy, the 2013 purse account is in jeopardy.

“The FELRC Board is scheduled to have its annual meeting on June 5 to determine where to go and what to do in 2013,” Thibert said in a written statement.

He emphasized that the 2012 season is fully funded and that “full speed ahead” is the catch phrase for this season.

Horsemen have different viewpoints on the track’s future.

George Minoque, a backstretch resident for over 30 years, is convinced that 2013 will be a great year.

“This is a historic site and the government will never let it close,” said Minoque.

Chris MacDonald, former trainer, and owner Joe Kaldi, do not agree.

“Things look grim,” said Kaldi. “How can they operate without the needed funds?”

MacDonald said, “We need funding, a change in government and management. If that happens, 2013 will be a go.”

Former jockey Larry Goldberg, 64, has some specific thoughts.

“To me, the news implies that with no subsidy there will be no racing,” he said. “I do not agree. We must find a way to keep the track operating.

“Our minority government could be defeated within a year. Their rash actions can be overturned once the opposition takes control. In the interim, tracks have to maintain a level of racing, probably a reduced program, but the goal is to stay in business.

“Some Fort Erie horsemen believe that racing cannot continue without our current purse structure," he added. "They are dead wrong. If you want to continue to race, to work, to manage, then you must recognize that for the interim, times have changed. Sacrifices will have to be made. Wages will drop, but you will have a track and a job.”