Casino isn’t budging on longer racing season at Fraser Downs

Amid a growing clamour by horsemen to extend the harness racing season at Fraser Downs in 2012, owner Great Canadian Gaming Corp. is standing firm. A six-month season is the way to go, a company spokesman says.

Howard Blank

Amid a growing clamour by horsemen to extend the harness racing season at Fraser Downs in 2012, owner Great Canadian Gaming Corp. is standing firm.

A split, six-month season is the best way to preserve horse racing at both of the company’s B.C. racetracks, Fraser Downs and Hastings Park, where the 2011 thoroughbred season gets underway Saturday.

“When you have standardbred and thoroughbred racing, the last thing you want to do is to have them compete for the entertainment dollar,” Howard Blank, Great Canadian’s vice president of marketing said, responding to  the decision by B.C.’s standardbred industry to press for a longer season, warning thousands of jobs across the Fraser Valley are at stake.

“We said that [a 10-month season] was something we didn’t feel was viable and the horse racing committee agreed,” he said. “The six month season is the way to go.”

Blank said Great Canadian and the committee studying ways to keep B.C.’s horse racing sectors viable agree the two racetracks must avoid competing for customers.

Great Canadian is hoping to finalize the fall 2011 and 2012 racing seasons by the end of May, earlier than last year, when race days at Fraser Downs were cut by 30 per cent and the 2011 season was temporarily suspended.

It’s too soon to tell whether the Public Gaming and Enforcement Branch will approve a longer season in 2012 – or if eight conditional race dates will be added to the fall 2011 schedule, bringing the total number of race days this year to 82.

According to a spokesperson at the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, the Gaming Enforcement Branch will be in a better position to determine that once Great Canadian’s application is received and performance indicators from the January to April component of the 2011 season wrapping up tonight are assessed.

Average race handles, the number of B.C.-owned horse starts, and the number of horses per race are among the factors that will determine if those conditional dates are approved.

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