Slot machines are to remain in Hanover, but the future of horse racing in the Grey County community is still up in the air.
The Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corp. recently provided Hanover with a draft municipality contribution agreement, which formally recognizes the town as a host slots community under its new modernization plan. The agreement also offers the municipality a .25% increase in slots revenue.
“Certainly, we are pleased with the agreement and the terms,” Hanover Mayor Kathi Maskell said last Wednesday in an interview.
While Hanover Council will fully consider all aspects of the agreement Oct. 29, it would appear both parties concur on the varied benefits of the OLG operating a gaming facility within Hanover, a news release from the town last Tuesday stated. OLG representatives have previously stated the relationship with Hanover council and community has been very positive throughout the tenure of operating Slots at Hanover Raceway, and Hanover’s community re-investment of the proceeds from being a host community is a model practice and local economic driver.
The new agreement calls for Hanover to receive 5.25% of the net revenue from the OLG slots, up from five per cent, according to chief administrative officer Mike Dunlop.
However, the agreement does not address or affect the future of Hanover Raceway.
“As a council and as a town, we really hope there will be some good movement to keep racing in the town of Hanover,” Maskell said.
Hanover Raceway general manager Gord Dougan said he is also hopeful an agreement will be reached that is a “win, win, win” — good for Hanover, OLG and the raceway.
The provincial government announced last year that it is ending its slots-at-racetrack program that pumped $345 million into racing.
Hanover received about $1 million in annual slots revenue, while the Hanover Bentinck and Brant Agricultural Society, which owns the racetrack and slots facility land, and a racing purse fund had both received about $2.1 million annually under the slots-at-racetrack revenue-sharing program.
The program ends March 31.
Dougan said negotiations for a lease agreement have begun between Hanover Raceway and OLG. He said he hopes the outcome will save harness racing in Hanover.
“The Town of Hanover continues to support and advocate for the sustainability of Hanover Raceway, and the broader troubled horse racing industry across Ontario,” Maskell said in the new release. “We wholly support efforts towards a viable solution between the industry and Province of Ontario that addresses sustainability and fully recognizes the rural economics of the industry and those individuals and families that are so greatly impacted by the proposed changes under consideration.”
In an effort to expand lottery and gaming in the province and boost its profit from $2 billion to $3.3 billion, OLG created 29 gaming zones this year where a new or existing slots or other gaming facility are permitted.
An area around and including Hanover is the only gaming zone in Grey-Bruce, although there is another at nearby Wasaga Beach.