The CEO of Assiniboia Downs says certainty is the key component in the transitional framework that was set out for Manitoba’s horse-racing industry by the province on Friday.
The Pallister government is collapsing a 2014 court-ordered settlement between the former NDP government and the Manitoba Jockey Club, which provided MJC with provincial grants totalling $22.65 million over a 10-year span.
Instead, government will provide the same funding over the next three years, which will allow both sides to hash out a new deal in the form of a long-term strategy for the horse racing industry.
“It means stability and the ability to plan,” Dunn said on Friday. “To be clear, we understand the need for government to be fiscally responsible. So this revised deal, and this is very important, does not reflect any new money that was not already committed in the old grant. It’s just an adjusted time frame.”
Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler said the deal was necessary to provide stable funding.
“Basically, what had happened under the previous government, they had a de-escalating clause in the funding that was going to the jockey club and it just wasn’t going to make it sustainable,” Eichler told reporters at the Manitoba Legislature on Friday.
Under the old plan, MJC would get $5.4 million for the first four years, $5.25 million for years five and six, $5 million for years seven and eight, $4 million in year nine and $3 million in the final year.
Eichler said the reformed deal allows the jockey club to remain viable for the next three years while both sides find a new agreement to follow the current one.
Dunn said the certainty over the next three years in the horse racing industry means everything.
“For stakeholders to make investments, to consider buying horses, to getting involved in the industry coming outside of the province, whether that’s Canada or the United States… it’s big,” Dunn said.
The province commissioned a $135,000 review of the horse racing industry in March, and the 125-page report was released last week showing that the industry is having a positive impact on the province.
The report suggests that horse racing in Manitoba has an economic impact in the range of $125 million to $142 million, while taxes generated through the industry range from $34.5 million to $40.7 million. The industry also houses upward of 1,200 jobs.
“We have to support it in some way or fashion,” Eichler said, citing the above numbers.
The report recommends the province shell out an addition $600,000 each year to continue to support the industry.