The Manitoba government and the Manitoba Jockey Club have entered into a new 12-year VLT agreement which ensures the continuation of live thoroughbred horse racing at Assinoiboa Downs and ends a flurry of litigation the MJC had launched against the province after the government last year announced it was cancelling its VLT agreement with the Downs.
Reading from a prepared statement, Downs CEO Darren Dunn disclosed the new agreement to the Free Press this afternoon:
"The government of Manitoba and the Manitoba Jockey Club have reached a comprehensive agreement that resolves all matters outstanding between them regarding the continuation of live horse racing at Assiniboia Downs.
"This agreement recognizes that the Manitoba Jockey Club has entered into a partnership with Peguis First Nation, which in the long run will enhance revenue streams at Assiniboia Downs. With today’s agreement, the government is providing a bridge to MJC that intends to get it into a position where it will be able to enjoy the benefits of those enhanced revenue streams while maintaining sustainability for horse racing in the interim.
"With this agreement having been reached, the Manitoba Jockey Club will immediately discontinue all of its outstanding litigation against the government, its ministers and all government related entities and individuals. The government and Manitoba Jockey Club are pleased that live horse racing will continue uninterrupted at Assiniboia Downs and a new partnership between MJC and Peguis First Nation will allow for a stable and sustainable horse racing industry in Manitoba for years to come."
After the province announced last year that it was scrapping its VLT agreement with the MJC -- an agreement that funds purses for live racing at the Downs -- the MJC signed a deal with Peguis First Nation to build a new hotel and convention centre on vacant land the MJC owns adjacent to the Portage Avenue racetrack.
Dunn told the Free Press that the new agreement with the province contains a "tapering" element that will see the MJC's cut of revenues from the VLT's at the track slowly decline over the life of the agreement.
In a news release, the province said the key elements of the agreement are:
- A VLT site-holder agreement has been entered into by MJC with Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation. The term of this new site-holder agreement is for 12 years, during which time the same number of machines, 140, will continue to be located at ASD.
- During the first 10 of those years, the government will provide supplementary funding to MJC in the form of grants as follows:
- Years 1 to 4: $5.40 million;
- Years 5 and 6: $5.25 million;
- Years 7 and 8: $5 million;
- Year 9: $4 million; and
- Year 10: $3 million.
- In years 11 and 12, there will be no grants. At that point, the revenue to MJC will be the revenue generated through VLT commissions and contributions alone under a VLT siteholder agreement.