Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jockey club assigned its day in court

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Do-or-die day for horse racing at Assiniboia Downs is June 27.

That's the court date the Manitoba Jockey Club was assigned Monday to make its case to stop pending government legislation that would cut $5 million in video-lottery-terminal revenue to the club.

The hearing will take place regardless of whether the legislation -- the 62-page Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act (BITSA) -- has passed in the legislature.

The bill would let the Selinger government cut revenue to the jockey club from VLTs at Assiniboia Downs and replace it with a new tiered-commission structure. The new VLT-revenue arrangement -- the club would keep its 140 terminals -- is to be imposed on the jockey club 60 days after the BITSA bill receives royal assent. Under the old agreement, the jockey club received 100 per cent of revenue or about $6.5 million last year.

The bill would also bar the club from suing the province, though it would not prevent civil actions such as the ones the club has launched against the government, Finance Minister Stan Struthers and the Red River Exhibition.

Jockey club lawyer Jeff Rath said, in arguing for the emergency hearing, if the legislation is passed it would mean Assiniboia Downs would not be able to operate the rest of the season. It's scheduled to run to Sept. 22.

"We're up against the clock here," he told Queen's Bench Judge Brenda Keyser.

Government lawyer Heather Leonoff said the June 27 hearing could be moot as BITSA may not be passed by the legislature and it's difficult to argue about the legality of a bill when it's not law.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 11, 2013 B5

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