The Future Health of Harness Racing



With the change in provincial government many interested individuals have been asking what is the status of slot machines at Fraser Downs and how they can assist BC racing with this issue.

Well, the provincial government has said they are “anti-gaming expansion.”

As dire as that sounds and as direct as it seems, the statement could in fact mean several things. And it may mean that slot machines could be installed at Fraser Downs some time in the future.

If this happens it would mean significant increases in the amount of purse money available and more live racing dates. In addition Fraser Downs would literally be transformed, through extensive renovation, into an entertainment complex unrivalled in the Lower Mainland.

If you want to do something, call your MLA today.

Now that the provincial government is deciding just how to define their policy of “anti-gaming expansion,” it is more important than ever that provincial MLA’s hear from you how any new policy may affect BC horse racing.

Here is what your MLA may ask:

Why should slot machines be installed at racetracks?

Currently, BC is the only province east of the Maritimes that does not allow slots to be installed at racetracks. This puts BC horse racing at a tremendous disadvantage. In essence, it relegates BC racing to the minor leagues, because we can’t offer enough purse money to attract the best drivers, trainers, and horses. As well, it is growing more difficult for tracks to compete in the local marketplace with casinos now located in Burnaby, Coquitlam, two in New Westminster, and two in northern Washington state. The racing industry is not afraid of competition; racing just wants the chance to compete.

My government campaigned on a position of “anti-gaming expansion.” Therefore, I don’t think we could support slots at tracks.

Allowing for slots at tracks is not “gaming expansion.” It is simply allowing race tracks, which have been offering gambling in this province for 100 years, to expand their product line. To date, the issue of slots at tracks has generated no opposition. As well, this government has allowed existing casino licenses to move from one municipality to another (that is what has happened with the Newton casino moving to Coquitlam recently). Why couldn’t the same happen at a racetrack? How is that “gaming expansion?”

But to do that you would need municipal approval.

Fraser Downs almost has municipal approval. An OCP amendment, the first step in allowing for gaming at the track, was filed the last week of October. The new Surrey gaming policy allows up to three locations for slot machines in Surrey.

Who would benefit from such a project?

All stakeholders. Direct and indirect employment would double, to almost 2,000, and the economic impact of the racetrack would climb to approximately $200 million annually (based on an economic impact study completed several months ago). The City of Surrey would receive approximately $3 million annually, but the big winners would be the provincial government itself; they would receive approximately $30 million annually.

But I don’t support gambling because of its social impact.

Any negative social impacts associated with gaming in the province already exist. There are 17 casinos in the province (8 have slots), the BC Lottery Corporation brought in $1 billion last year and there are 1400 virtual casinos on the internet that a person can play with real money. By shutting out horse racing, an industry that employs 12,000 people in this province and has an annual economic impact of $500 million, the provincial government is essentially suffocating a legitimate industry.

If an MLA is in agreement and willing to help, they should contact the Solicitor General, the Hon. Rich Coleman (whose Ministry is responsible for gaming) and other Cabinet members BEFORE any decision is made on gaming policy.


You can phone Elections BC at 1-800-661-8683 or on the internet at under the “Contact” section.

You can also contact Rich Coleman, the Minister responsible for gaming, at his constituency office at 604-607-6200, and tell the receptionist you want to talk to him about “slot machines at race tracks.” You can also email Rich at [email protected]

You can also contact Premier Gordon Campbell at his Victoria office at 250-387-1715, or make your views known via email at [email protected]


Chuck Keeling, General Manager
Orangeville Raceway Ltd.

17755 - 60th Avenue
Surrey, B.C.  V3S 1V3

Tel: 604-576-9141
Fax: 604-576-9821
e-mail: [email protected]

go to Current Issues in BC Horse Racing
go to home page

©Copyright Fraser Downs 2001