The Manitoba Horse Racing Commission will suspend simulcast betting at Assiniboia Downs Jan. 1 if the Manitoba Jockey Club doesn’t come clean on a $15-million deal involving Peguis First Nation.
Correspondence released today by the commission indicates Peguis bought Assiniboia Downs on Sept. 17, the date the mortgage was registered. The mortgage is payable without interest in 25 years.
"This mortgage has caused the commission grave concern," MHRC executive director Larry Huber wrote to jockey club CEO Darren Dunn on Dec. 9. "In particular, the commission is concerned that the mortgage could be used as a device to transfer ownership of the race track without securing the approval of MHRC.
"We would ask for your position on the ability of the MJC to mortgage the race track."
MHRC chair Tom Goodman said today that due to a failure by jockey club to address the commission’s concerns about the mortgage, the MHRC has "suspended consideration" of the club’s 2014 race licence.
"As a consequence, simulcast betting at Assiniboia Downs may be halted effective Jan. 1," Goodman said.
The jockey club and Peguis First Nation are scheduled to hold "an exciting announcement" at the track Thursday morning, followed by a "holiday reception and luncheon."
The apparent change in ownership of Assiniboia Downs is the latest chapter in an ongoing dispute between the jockey club and the province over the Selinger government's plan to cut $5 million in video-lottery-terminal revenue to the Downs.
The jockey club argues a plan is in the works to have the Red River Exhibition Corp. take over Assiniboia Downs.
The jockey club has sued former Finance Minister Stan Struthers, the province and the Red River Ex for $350 million. The club is seeking another $15 million from the Red River Ex and its CEO, Garth Rogerson. Those matters remain before the courts.