The Bitter Side of Sports
The sports industry is not immune to the poor economy throughout North America, as you shall see, but has the government gone too far? Do they really understand how their decisions impact more than just athletes?
The Slots at Fort Erie, Ontario, employ over 200 people who are immediately affected by the government’s decision to close its doors as of April 30th. The workers built their homes and families in the community, and were dependant upon the countless hours of hard work and dedication they put in for the OLG (Ontario Lottery and Gaming) over the years for their livelihood.
The announced closure of the slots has caused unbelievable unrest in the city. Some people are still left reeling, anxiously trying to find a place to live and some, any, source of income. I need not point out that some of these families have young children. It seems like the government is playing with people’s lives, showing little compassion for the ripple effect this will cause the race tracks, the towns in the surrounding area, and the unemployment rate.
With the closing of the slots at Fort Erie, the race track is going to be hit hard. The money the track was entitled to, and then depended upon, is no longer there. Opening its doors in 1897, yes, 115 years ago, Fort Erie Race Track, also known as the Border Oval, has been the home to hundreds of thousands of trackers (people who work at the track), who have dedicated their lives to the sport. Currently about 2000 people are directly connected to racing in Fort Erie and if the track is unable to survive, the lives of 1000’s of people will change instantly. Some will move on to another city if they are fortunate enough to find a new job, but it is particularly difficult given the fact they come from a very specific industry like racing.
The uncertainty the people of Fort Erie are feeling is even harder to swallow when you consider the program has done nothing but make money for the government since the original arrangement. The Race Track and Slots program began in 1998 and was an instant success. The program saved race tracks all over Ontario, and especially at my home turf, Fort Erie Race Track. The fear has set in that without the money that the race track receives from the slots revenue as part of a long going arrangement with OLG, these race tracks may not be able to survive. Yes, there will be racing this year at the Border Oval, but the immediate impact on the small town of Fort Erie is substantial.
There will be such a drastic change coming to the town of Fort Erie, as people will begin leaving by the busload to relocate in search of new jobs. The local restaurants will take a hit, houses will be going up for sale (chances are at a discounted price), small lawn and gardening services won’t have the abundance of customers and even the local department stores will see a decline in sales. Fort Erie and the people of this town, this small town of families and friends, where friends are family, need the Slots and Race Track.
I say, stand up with the people of this town, and other affected small towns around North America, that are being dismantled by governments trying to save their own hides. They must be made aware of how serious the reprecussions will be.
In its 115th year of racing at the beautiful Fort Erie Race track, I encourage you and yours to go for a live day of racing. Enjoy the picturesque infield, the kid friendly environment, and most of all the thunder from the hooves of the thoroughbreds coming down to the wire!
…and that is the last word.