Friday, 02 September 2016 00:45

HRA presentation to Edmonton City Council, Re: Northlands

Written by Rick LeLacheur
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Speaking Notes from September 1, 2016

Good afternoon. My name is Rick LeLacheur and I am Chairman of the Board of Directors of Horse Racing Alberta.

We are not here today to support or in opposition of Northlands Vision 2020.

As the regulator of horse racing in Alberta we are here to talk about the future of horse racing in the Edmonton area.

Horse Racing Alberta was established by an Act of the Legislature in 2002. We are a not for profit corporation that reports to the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The Board is comprised of members of the horse racing industry and members of the public. While we operate as an independent organization, we are accountable to government and the public through the filing of our annual report, audited financial statements and a three year business plan presented to and approved by the Ministers annually.

We are not subsidized by the Government of Alberta, but afforded the opportunity of a Racing Entertainment Centre in conjunction with a license to operate a horse racing track. In March of this year the Government of Alberta and Horse Racing Alberta signed a new 10 year Memorandum of Understanding on a revenue split of the slot machines.

In accordance with the Act, the mandated objectives of HRA are:

  • To govern, direct, control, regulate, manage, market and promote horse racing in any or all of its forms.
  • To protect the health, safety and welfare of racehorses and, with respect to horse racing, the safety and welfare of racing participants and racing officials.
  • To safeguard the interests of the general public in horse racing.

Horse racing began in Alberta in 1882 and today the industry employs, directly and indirectly 7000 people, is home to some 7100 race horses and an annual economic impact of 400 million dollars. Each year over 1.5 million fans attend live horse racing events in Alberta.

Northlands Park has been a key partner in horse racing for over 100 years. In February of this year, Northlands advised HRA that they would be exiting racing at the end of the 2016 race season.

Northlands Park receives from Horse Racing Alberta 28.75% of the gross slot play generated at the Racing Entertainment Centre operated at Northlands. This percentage allows each track to improve their revenues by growing their slot play. In addition, Northlands racing contract requires 100 days of racing that gives them additional revenues from the pari-mutual handle, food and beverage, room rentals, etc.

Last year, Northlands Park received $8,058,032 from Horse Racing Alberta as per their operating funding agreement. According to the Financial Statements of Northlands, Northlands Park showed a profit of $3.653 million dollars from Horse Racing.

When Northlands Park announced they were exiting horse racing at the end of 2016, HRA immediately launched an Expression of Interest document to own, build and operate an “A” Horse Race Track Facility in or near Edmonton. 7 EOIs were received and they were given the opportunity to complete a RFP. Four applicants submitted proposals by the deadline on August 8th. The four submissions are now being reviewed by an External Review Committee. We anticipate that the Committee will provide a recommendation by mid-September. The HRA Board will make the final decision.

Whatever decisions are made regarding the future of Northlands it is critical to our industry and the thousands of people it affects to continue racing at Northlands Park for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. This will allow time for a new facility to be built in the Edmonton area. Should Northlands not be in a position to operate the race track in 2017/18 we have competent parties who are interested in taking on the role of operating the race track and Racing Entertainment Centre. This would insure that jobs here in Edmonton would not be lost during the transition.

Thank you for your time. I would be pleased to answer any questions

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