BC Horse Racing - new economic development thrust

Milburn leads new economic development initiative

David MilburnVeteran thoroughbred horse owner, trainer and industry executive David Milburn, a lawyer by profession, has been appointed to chair a new thrust to assess the economic foundation of both standardbred and thoroughbred horse racing in B.C., and to prepare an action plan for the future, exploring a "competition committee" model used successfully to manage the development of other professional sports.

A representative committee of racetrack managers, horse people (owners, trainers, association executives), marketers, communications specialists and horseplayers has been formed to explore what might be the best model for the future. Assisting in the project is Sam Hawkins, the Director of the Horse Racing Division, of the B.C. government's Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch.

The vice-chair and secretary of the new committee is BANNERLINE's Gary Bannerman, who was also vice-chair of the B.C. Racing Commission's Economic Development Committee in 2000-2001, and author of the committee's 40,000-word report, The Road to Recovery. Milburn was also chair of that project.

The new committee has evolved from 15-years of B.C. initiatives designed to stop the steady erosion of horse racing's prominence among sports and entertainment options, and within the otherwise booming gaming industry.

HastingsFraser Downs

Important past initiatives have been:

  • The Horse Racing Alliance (1996-2001) - an industry campaign of both standardbred and thoroughbred track operators, as well as horse people from both sectors, who successfully lobbied governments to reverse unfair taxation and to permit the racing industry to participate in machine gaming.

  • The B.C. Racing Commission's Economic Development Committee (2000-2001) as previously noted, a mixed group of horse racing people and prominent individuals from other business pursuits, most notably professional sports management, marketing and government.

  • The consolidation of ownership of Hastings Racecourse, Fraser Downs and Sandown Park by Great Canadian Gaming Corporation (GCGC), a major Canadian company with top management passionate about horse racing. Chuck Keeling, the long-time General Manager of Fraser Downs and Sandown, was named to head GCGC's horse racing division, responsible also for two racetracks and casinos in Ontario.

  • Two important Chuck Keeling business development thrusts (2005-present) - the Horse Owners Advisory Panel (Project Respect) and the Horseplayers' Advisory Panel (The Lifeblood Project). Keeling vowed upon taking on his present responsibilities for five Canadian racetracks, three casinos and a network of teletheatre interests, that these two groups were going to get a disproportionate amount of attention - those who invest hard cash into the sport - either through buying horses or through their wagers. The later group has rarely ever been formally consulted by anyone.

The assignment of the new committee is to review all of this past experience and the published reports, with a view toward an action plan for the future.

For more information:

  • The Road to Recovery - report of the Economic Development Committee, 2001

  • A discussion paper authored by Keeling, Milburn and Bannerman in 2006 that set the stage for the current committee

  • An agenda/preliminary discussion paper for the first meeting of the exploratory group, June 22, 2007, including the committee roster - biographical notes.

  • Report of the June 22, 2007 meeting - since confirmed and unanimously endorsed by the participants.

Comments would be appreciated. E-mail bchorseracing@aol.com

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