Construction of the Alberta Downs grandstand is underway again and now the horse racing track’s owner Robert Allen is working to line up approval for simulcast betting that would allow race-goers to wager on races worldwide.
“I’m kind of waiting for the federal government to give me the OK for simulcasting, which is the big issue with no slot machines,” said Allen on Monday.
“I think I’ve got the blessing of the provincials. It’s Ottawa I’m waiting for,” he said.
Allen is hoping to get an answer from the federal government by the end of the year.
“Once I get it set up, you’ll be able to bet on races all over the world really.”
Allen originally hoped to build a racing entertainment centre with up to 150 slot machines. However, the provincial government is not licensing any more slot machines until a gambling review is completed.
The licence freeze is expected to continue until the review is completed sometime next year.
“Nothing has changed as far as the VLT and slot licence applications,” said Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission spokeswoman Christine Wronko. “The assessment into Alberta’s gaming industry continues.”
Alberta Downs cleared a major hurdle last month when Lacombe County signed a development agreement allowing work on the grandstand to restart. Construction had been halted because all of the necessary development approvals were not in place.
The cold snap brought work to a halt this week, but Allen expects to get going again soon.
“We’ve got half the steel up. We’re just waiting for good weather to put the rest up.
“We’ll get the steel up in a couple of weeks and then we’ll start finishing the inside and the outside.”
When fully complete, the facility will hold 1,500 people and Allen hopes to have it ready by mid-May.
“The races start May 8 and I hope to be done by then.”
Fifty-three days of racing have been booked for the track so far, including 50 days of harness racing that will run throughout the summer until Aug. 29. In September, two days of thoroughbred racing are planned, with a third day in October.
The track opened for racing on April 18, drawing several hundred spectators and generating positive reviews from the harness racing community. Persistent frost problems forced Allen to close the track a few weekends early while repairs were made to soft spots.
Since then, he has been undertaking landscaping work and other improvements while waiting for final permit approvals.