2 Sep

Horse Racing at Flamboro Downs, 19+ in the Grandstand

Ontario horse racing track to impose age restriction on grandstand viewers.

Ontario horse racing track to impose age restriction on grandstand viewers.

For decades, a day at the races has been enjoyed as a bonding experience between young and old. Fathers and grandfathers have been taking their sons to the track since the dawn of horse racing. Entire families make a day of it. Here in Canada, especially, it’s not much different than parents in the US taking their children to a baseball game – a sport universally known as America’s favorite pastime.

Such family experiences are not soon – if ever – forgotten. I still remember by grandfather telling me about his first trip to the track with his grandfather. That’s five generations of racing fans, born and bred to appreciate the sport. But as some seem to be suggesting, a childhood trip to the track is not the foundation of a problem gambler to come.

Alas, it would seem such fears are gripping the executives at Great Canadian Gaming (GCG), owner of Flamboro Downs in Hamilton, ON, who have recently expanded the gaming offering at this location to include over 800 slot machines. Thus, the company decided it would be best to restrict the track’s grandstand from the young and impressionable minds of those under 19 years of age.

Limiting entry to 19+ in the casino makes absolute sense, but should children really be cut off from the grandstand at the track? The family bonding issue is a big one, but it’s not the only one according to community outcry.

Occupational Hazard for Ontario Horse Racing Tracks

How many children will ever grow up taking an interest in the horse racing industry if they are not allowed to experience events first hand before the age of 19? the industry employs thousands upon thousands of people. From the upper echelon Horse owners and trainers, to the announcers and grandstaff ushers, right down to the stable workers and grooms.

Nathan Bain is a perfect example of how this new rule, to be instated as of tomorrow, September 3, 2019, will negatively effect the industry as a whole. At 17 years old, Nathan is a hugely respected Youth Member of the Canadian Chapter of the United States Harness Writers. Nathan Bain called his first race at Flamboro Downs when was just 15, and has also worked at Ontario’s Dresden and Leamington Raceways. It’s hard for him to imagine that twenty four hours from now, he won’t even be allowed to enter the main building.

“Very disappointed to the see that anyone under the age of 19 is not allowed to enter the grandstand or clubhouse at Flamboro Downs as of September 3rd.,” said Bain in one of the first Tweets responding to the announcement late last month. “We should be engaging youth in this sport not turning them away and that’s coming from a youth!”

Another follower of the discussion, going by the nickname Trotter Turk, was so perturbed that he’s sworn off business at Flamboro Downs forever more in this response:

Absolutely sickening. You cannot grow the sport without youth! I can tell you this, they just lost a long-time customer. I will never support a situation like this. Bye bye Flamboro.”

Someone is Listening, but is it Too Little, Too Late?

The construction of the new slots parlour at Flamboro Downs is already complete. The new casino entrance was built so that you must traverse the slots floor in order to access the grandstand. The purpose was, quite obviously, to promote the slot machines to their racing fans. The end result,m however, is what race fans are predicting will be the death of Flamboro’s raceway.

Based on this, it would certainly seem that negotiations are closed on the matter. Provincial regulations will not permit minors to enter the casino, even if it’s to get to the grandstand. GCG could go back and construct a separate entrance for the track, but that would defeat their money-hungry purpose of promoting slot machines by forcing racing fans to see their flashing lights, hear their ceaseless chimes.

Could there be a glimmer of hope remaining?

Fans say no, but whoever manages the Flamboro Facebook account hasn’t given up yet. In response to the 100+ negative replies to the announcement, Flamboro Downs said:

Many have shared frustrations and concerns about the recent announcement. Please know that all constructive feedback is being shared with management.”

None were exactly thrilled by that comment, nor the promise of efforts to resolve the issue that appeared on Facebook three days later.

We know that families enjoy horse racing together. As part of our ongoing commitment to live racing at Flamboro Downs, we continue to explore ways to ensure the trackside racing experience remains welcoming to minors, while operating within the overall realities of a regulated gaming environment intended for adults.”

More details are said to come, but with the age restriction going into effect at the Ontario horse racing track tomorrow, it may just be too little, too late, for the countless fans that are threatening to boycott the raceway.

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