Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Province, track at work on new deal
IS there a deal in the works between the provincial government and Assiniboia Downs that will finally secure the long-term viability of the Downs?
The NDP's Jim Rondeau says there is and it could be just a matter of days before it is unveiled. Harvey Warner, president of the Manitoba Jockey Club, says he's not sure what Rondeau is talking about -- but, just the same, he hopes Rondeau is right.
"I wish I knew," Warner laughed when asked what Rondeau was referring to.
Rondeau, the minister of science, technology, energy and mines and the MLA for Assiniboia, caused a bit of a stir -- and an awkward moment -- when he used his speech during the Downs news conference to announce that a new government partnership with the Downs is about to be announced.
"I was hoping a week ago we could make the announcement" on Wednesday, Rondeau told the news conference. "I understand the announcement is imminent."
The Downs has long sought a new partnership with the province, built on a long-term gaming deal that allows the track to compete on an even footing with the province's casinos.
A study commissioned by the province in 2007 found the Downs has an economic impact in the province of $50 million annually and found the existing funding arrangement -- where the Downs gets a portion of the profits from VLTs on the track's property -- woefully inadequate.
The report studied a number of options, including giving the track a full-blown casino -- as the province had promised a few years ago but then reneged on -- or giving the Downs a much more lucrative take of the VLTs on its property.
With the report as the backdrop, Warner said negotiations are ongoing with the province for a new long-term deal he hopes will give the Downs the financial security it needs to make much-needed capital improvements and adapt to an increasingly competitive gambling environment.
But an imminent deal? "We're still in meetings, we're still in negotiations," said Warner.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 7, 2009 C5
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