Shorelines Slots and Kwartha Downs ponder a questionable future with horse racing in Ontario.
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With this in mind, some would say the horse racing industry is an
integral part of Ontario’s culture; an industry thriving on decades
upon decades worth of popularity. But is it fair to call an industry
productive when it relies upon millions of dollars worth of annual
government funding to survive? Somehow, following year after year of
unremunerative operation, horse racing tracks all over Canada remain
Like so many others, Kwartha Downs has been in this very
position for quite some time now. And, like so many others, the
original solution was to attract additional patrons by providing
further gambling activities. OLG slots facilities became the norm,
wherein slot machines were installed to supplement flagging revenue.
But this too has been ineffective in resolving the problem.
Despite the additional revenue pouring in from slots facilities,
horse tracks continue to cost government millions of dollars each
year. Now, with the racing season about to kick off in Fraserville,
proving the viability of the horse racing agenda has become vital to
the property’s survival.
Kwartha Worthy of Horse Racing in Ontario?
Beginning with the facility’s opening night races, to be held this
Saturday, May 11, Kwartha Downs will have exactly two years – or
rather, two racing seasons – to prove
its viability to Ontario Racing. What happens in the 2019 and
2020 seasons will determine its future in Ontario.
For the moment, Ontario Racing is providing the race track with $6
million to cover purses and operational costs. That funding is good
for both seasons. But once the 2020 races are complete, if Kwartha
can give the province and its racing industry no clear sign of a
successful future to come, the property will close.
As things stand now, only the Shorelines Slots at Kwartha Downs are profitable. However, the losses experienced by the track are far
more than the profit its adjacent mini-casino is bringing in. And
according to the property’s license agreement, the slots parlor
cannot exist without the racetrack. Thus, if the horse racing
facility fails to prove its worth, the slots will go down with it.
Observant readers may remember that the slots at Kwartha Downs were
given an extended lease on life already. They were supposed to be
removed and transferred to the new Shorelines Slots in Peterborough
in Spring 2018. Instead, General Manager Orazio Valente and others
fought to keep the track afloat, securing a lifeline from Ontario
Racing in December.
Two Years To Shape Up or Ship Out
That agreement with Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) and Great
Canadian Gaming (GCG) is allowing Kwartha Downs to keep 150 of
its gaming machines; at least, for now. While those games continue to
draw customers and keep revenue flowing, it’s the $6 million from
Ontario Racing that keeps the track alive. But beyond 2020, the
facility’s future is uncertain, to put it mildly.
“Their success will be our success and their failure will be our
failure,” explains Kwartha Downs General Manager Orazio Valente in
the simplest of terms. He says whether Kwartha will receive a slot
machine rental extension beyond 2020 is entirely up to GCG. Thus,
it’s imperative the gaming facility successed over the next two
“I cannot see a financial path forward where we have any type of
horse racing, at any facility let alone this one, without a casino
paying rent or providing funds,” Valente told the media during this
Valente assured everyone of his commitment to fighting for the future
of Kwartha Downs. However, he alone cannot make it happen. It will
require partnerships with equestrians They must agree to help promote
the sports and race their horses at the track in Fraserville. Failure
to entertain the crowd with competitive races will, no doubt, spell
the end of Kwartha Downs and its Shorelines Slots facility beyond the
2020 racing season
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