Harness Racing has been suspended at Fraser Downs.
More than 130 workers will lose their jobs after the final spring race April 16.
“Because of COVID, we’ve been forced to suspend all racing indefinitely after the last race tonight and 135 workers will be unemployed,” Nigel Holmes, executive director of Harness Racing B.C., said in a press release.
Holmes said Harness Racing B.C. had no other option as they’ve run out of money.
“It means our regular spring racing meet will end early, and prospects are not good for our regular fall meet,” Holmes said in the April 16 media release. “Unless we are able to negotiate some form of short term COVID financial support from the B.C. government.”
Earlier this month, Harness Racing B.C. had announced the spring season would finish as scheduled on April 30th, but that the fall season may not go ahead because of a loss of funding.
Harness racing has fallen into great financial difficulty as casinos have been closed since March of 2020. Horse racing in B.C., both standardbred and thoroughbred, relies on a sliver of gaming revenue earned from slot machines. With casinos closed, horse racing’s funding rivulet has evaporated.
“It’s money we use to sustain the industry, run races, hire workers, pay the purses, maintain the track, stable horses, and fund a host of agricultural support programs for breeding, rearing and training,” Holmes explained.
Holmes said Harness Racing B.C. still hopes to get some emergency funding from the government.
“We are committed to finding a way to survive this year,” he said. “Those involved in harness racing are very passionate about its place in our sporting and agricultural communities. In the coming days and weeks, we will be making that case as we meet with government representatives.”
Holmes said a lot of business will be affected by the loss of racing.
“The horse racing industry will no longer be purchasing a full range of goods and services from businesses including feed suppliers, hay sales, veterinarians, and farriers—many of which are multigenerational, locally owned businesses,” the release noted.