Day At The Track

London as racing hotbed in jeopardy

08:52 AM 29 Dec 2018 NZDT
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The future of racing at Western Fair is in jeopardy
The future of racing at Western Fair is in jeopardy unless the province steps in with money, officials say.
Associated Press Photo

Two provincial organizations say they fear for the future of harness racing in the region and want the province to financially back the sport at the Western Fair District. 

Gateway Casinos and Entertainment announced it had signed a lease in the city's south end, instead of the current Western Fair grounds, for an expanded facility. 

That puts the future of racing in the region in jeopardy, said Bill O'Donnell, president of the Central Ontario Standardbred Association. 

"We're very concerned about the future of racing in the London region which has been a hotbed for harness racing for many decades," O'Donnell said. 

"We were very disappointed with Gateway's decision and the effect it will have on racing in the London area."

The Raceway at Western Fair has more than 100 race dates annually and provides a livelihood for thousands in the region, O'Donnell said in a statement. 

The daily amount of money wagered is second only to the Woodbine Entertainment tracks in Toronto, he added. 

The Western Fair has asked for financial support from the province to continue the racing operation. 

"We have confidence that the Ford government will work with us to ensure that the necessary funding will be made available to continue racing at The Raceway at Western Fair supporting our horse people, our rural regional communities and the city of London," Fair officials said 

O'Donnell and John Hayes, chair of Ontario Racing, say they support the request for provincial cash. 

"We solidly support this request and are optimistic it will be honoured given the Ford government's very vocal support of the restoration of the slots at racetrack program and horse racing," O'Donnell said. 

Reprinted with permission of CBC News

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