There’s extra cash for B.C.’s horse race industry but it’s not known if any will come to Vernon.
The provincial government has initiated an increase in the percentage of on-track slot machine revenues from B.C. Lottery Corporation gaming proceeds for horse racing.
“We are currently trying to arrange a meeting with the minister to discuss this topic and more specifically the allocation to the Interior tracks going forward,” said Ed Woolley, with the Okanagan Equestrian Society, which hosts Vernon Racing Days.
The society’s long-standing concern has been that much of the government’s focus is on tracks at the Lower Mainland and not in the Interior.
“You may wish to note the Quick Facts portion (of a government press release) that states B.C. has two race tracks: Hastings Park and Fraser Downs,” said Woolley.
“It’s hard not to feel forgotten when you actually are. This is a good example of the Vancouver-centric attitude that we are fighting at the moment.”
Woolley says the level of purse payouts is critical if races are to attract riders and horses, and ultimately equestrian fans.
The government’s funding increase will be effective for the 2013 racing season and is an increase to 25 per cent from the current 15.5 per cent.
The total funding amount is estimated to be approximately $10 million and will go toward ensuring that purse amounts are commensurate with industry standards.
“While the allocation to the Interior is still an issue, this step on the part of the government is a positive sign for the industry,” said Woolley.
According to the government, the B.C. horse racing industry has an economic impact of $350 million and directly employs 3,600 people. More than 7,400 individuals derive an income from racing in full-time, part-time, and casual employment.
“The industry is the only form of gaming that generates business within the agricultural sector, making it economically important throughout the province,” states a government release.