Sept. 22, 2008
FREDERICTON (CNB) - The province's harness racing industry has been offered a participatory role in the new video lottery reforms which were announced as part of a new responsible gaming policy for the province.
At a recent meeting between harness racing industry representatives and government officials, the industry was offered access to 150 VLTs as a revenue-generating option.
"Harness racing benefits agriculture in New Brunswick, providing direct employment and income for hundreds of farm operators, trainers, groomers, and other horse-care workers," said Agriculture and Aquaculture Minister Ronald Ouellette. "As a government, we have the obligation to work with industry on identifying options to ensure that the industry is sustainable and self-sufficient."
One of the conditions attached to the offer by government is that the harness racing industry form one cohesive organization, which would be charged with provincewide selection and management of its VLT sites. This would include location selection and the distribution of the number of VLTs in locations within parameters of the responsible gaming strategy.
The idea of a single provincial body to represent the interests of harness racing in the province was well received at the recent meeting between industry stakeholders and government.
As part of the conditions put forward by government, the machines would only be awarded to facilities based on requests by the new organization. As well, the organization and locations would have to meet business and performance standards as outlined by the Atlantic Lottery Corp., which operates the province's VLT program.
The program would be reviewed in five years. During the first five years, the industry would not be subject to any revenue minimum threshold by operators of the program.
"We have heard some concerns raised by the harness racing industry on the viability of their future, and we feel that this is a very good solution to the challenges they face," said Finance Minister Victor Boudreau, whose department oversees the province's responsible gaming strategy. "We believe there have been some fruitful discussions with the industry representatives, and we will wait for them to speak to their colleagues and report back to government."
The four pillars of the responsible gaming policy announced last year were:
MEDIA CONTACTS: Alain Bryar, communications, Agriculture and Aquaculture, 506-444-4218; Marc Belliveau, Finance, 506-453-4138.