The President of Manitoba’s Great Western Harness Racing Circuit supports a move by the province to review the racing industry.

Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler says the Manitoba government is launching an external review of the horse-racing industry with the goal of identifying new opportunities to establish a more financially sustainable approach.

“Horse racing is a well-established industry in Manitoba that provides province wide economic benefit and entertainment opportunities,” said Eichler. “While the industry has faced financial challenges, our government wants to find a sustainable future for horse racing in Manitoba. It is our hope that this external review will reveal new opportunities for growth and long-term sustainability.”

Darryl Mason of Killarney has been head of the harness racing circuit for several years. “From what I’ve heard they are looking to make the industry more sustainable and I think they are working in the right direction and hopefully it will help the industry survive and prosper moving into the future.”

The tender includes an operational review of stakeholders, potential synergies and other investors, alternative models, economic impacts, governance models, risk analysis and a detailed recommendation for a financially sustainable model.

The harness racing circuit relies on support from the province each year to help cover expenses. “Each year we get about $388,000 in funding. That is money that comes from betting at the Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg. We use those funds to help cover our purses and other expenses” said Mason.

An economic impact assessment of Manitoba horse racing, conducted in 2008 estimated at the time that nearly $28 million per year was spent on activities and operations associated with standardbred and thoroughbred horse racing in the province. The assessment also determined that nearly 500 full-time positions were derived from horse racing in Manitoba. In addition to the jobs and economic spinoff created by Assiniboia Downs, horse racing also produced positive benefits to host communities of races in rural Manitoba.

The Great Western Harness Racing Circuit will be back on the track this summer with races going in Killarney, Miami, Glenboro and Holland. “Any changes coming out of this review wouldn’t be implemented until 2019 so for this year it will be business as usual.”

The external review will be conducted following a public tendering process. The deadline to apply is March 27.

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