Day At The Track

Horse Racing N.B. locked out of office

05:00 AM 18 May 2016 NZST
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Mike Vokey
Mike Vokey, the executive director of Fredericton Exhibition Ltd., said Horse Racing New Brunswick is free to try and negotiate a new lease to operate Winners Lounge.

The locks on Winners Lounge and the offices of Horse Racing New Brunswick were changed overnight by Fredericton Exhibition Ltd.

Roberta Nixon said after Winners closed around 3 a.m. on Tuesday, the bar's manager was contacted by its alarm company and told alarms were sounding.

The bar manager returned to Winners to find Fredericton police, security, Mike Vokey, the Fredericton Exhibition's executive director, and a locksmith.

"They've locked us out," said Nixon. who is the executive director of Horse Racing New Brunswick.

"We cannot access our bar, our simulcast, our Coasters, or our head office and all of our business operations."

Lease breaches

Vokey said the exhibition's board of directors voted to take the action after numerous lease breaches by Horse Racing New Brunswick.

Nixon said as of Sunday, her organization "didn't owe them a penny."

Nixon said property taxes of about $36,000 were due on Sunday and when a cheque for that amount was delivered to Vokey on Monday, he refused to accept it without opening it.

Vokey said the attempted late payment of property taxes is one of the lease breaches involved.

"It was due on the 15th and they were told to have it in on the Friday to make sure it was in by the 15th and that didn't take place," Vokey said.

Vokey said by the time the attempted cheque delivery was made on Monday afternoon, the exhibition's board of directors had already decided to take the action that unfolded early Tuesday morning.

VLTs shut down

Winners is a popular Coasters lounge with 25 video lottery terminals owned by the Atlantic Lottery Corp.

In a good two-week period, Nixon said, the VLTs provide Horse Racing New Brunswick with about $15,000 as its share of the revenue from the machines.

It is not clear when Winners Lounge will reopen.

Vokey said the plan will "kind of develop on its own" in the near future.

"I think the Exhibition's hope would be it continues and the VLTs remain there and the property continues under some new management," he said.

"It is possible HRNB could come to the table and negotiate a new lease for it, but it would be a lease that is different and more substantial and protected the interests of the Exhibition."

Fredericton Exhibition Ltd. "is prepared to" take over operating Winners Lounge, said Vokey.

"It was certainly not a goal that we've ever talked about," he said.

Atlantic Lottery spokeswoman Christine Manore said the corporation is aware of the situation.

"This is between the retailer and the landlord," said Manore. "At this time, Atlantic Lottery is evaluating the situation."

Only 3 race dates

Vokey said the lease agreement also states there is to be a "full schedule" of harness racing at Fredericton Raceway, but this year only three race dates are scheduled for Fredericton.

"That's an important term because we provide that space for harness racing," said Vokey. "It's provided for $1 a year.

"In exchange for getting it for a dollar, they have certain conditions they are expected to meet."

Nixon said "because of money" the number of harness racing dates in the province this year was reduced to 16 from 21, with Fredericton getting three of those dates. 

Nixon said Horse Racing New Brunswick has about $150,000 in operational costs on the Fredericton Exhibition grounds, including the $36,000 in property taxes.

"We pay all of the power, the water, sewer, all of the maintenance and repair, all the groundskeeping, all the snowplowing."

By Alan White, CBC News

Reprinted with permission of the cbc.ca/news site

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