01/29/2004 12:00AM

Supplement gives purses big boost

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Because of a purse supplement of $2.1 million from the British Columbia Lottery Corporation, overnight purses at Hastings will go up roughly 30 percent in 2004. None of the money will go toward stakes purses.

"This will help keep our local horses here and shows the government is seriously committed to revitalizing the horse racing industry in B.C.," said Phil Heard, the general manager of Hastings, who made the announcement Thursday.

In the past few years, horses have been leaving British Columbia to run in other Canadian jurisdictions where slot-machine revenue has boosted purses.

According to Heard, the money will come from slot-machine revenue generated at Fraser Downs, a Standardbred track in Surrey, British Columbia, a suburb of Vancouver. Hastings has also applied for 600 slot machines, but the Vancouver City Council will not review the application until this summer. If slots are approved, purses are expected to double. The city council recently reversed its longstanding opposition to slot machines by granting a downtown casino 600 slots.

"Last year we usually paid out $120,000 for a 10-race card, and with the additional money we're looking at about $155,000 per day," said Debbie Peebles, director of racing at Hastings. "We still have to work out the details with the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association."

"The projected purse increase is a significant and essential step in the right direction," said Dave Milburn, director of the HBPA. "These funds will go a long way towards stabilizing the industry."