Biggest step yet

Fraser Downs general manager Chuck Keeling was not high-fiving with members of his staff Tuesday but there was a sign of a glint in his eye. Even cynical staffers agreed it was not a tear.

It's all because the Downs has made the turn into the homestretch with the wire in sight in its marathon race to add slot machines to its horse racing gaming facility.

On Monday Surrey city council's gaming committee voted 6-1 to approve the addition of 300 slots to the Cloverdale operation.

"Last night was a milestone," Keeling said. "We are thrilled the mayor (Doug McCallum) and council conceptually endorsed the plan."

Keeling has led a campaign of six years to get slot machines at the track and thereby put the biggest B.C. harness racing facility on an equal playing field with others across the country. It has been a tough step-by-step battle.

"We see it (the council committee's decision) as the biggest step in a multi-step process," Keeling said.

He added the next step has the track in the process of fleshing out a definitive overall plan which would involve architectural renderings, construction costs and timelines.

Keeling feels the end result would be much like a "racino."

"What we are proposing is not new in North America but new to B.C. It joins horse racing gaming with other forms of gaming."

"We will make this definitive plan in partnership with the B.C. Lottery Corporation (the body in charge of gaming in the province)," Keeling continued, "and that process could take several weeks.

"We will then take the overall plan to the city for review and if that plan meets approval we look forward to moving ahead."

For now the glint will remain just that and not a full-blown sparkle as Keeling knows the battle down the homestretch can be the toughest.