Sask. to end parimutuel tax on horse race wagers

A 10 per cent provincial tax on all wagers placed on horse racing in Saskatchewan will be pulled at the end of March next year, as the province’s racing industry braces for the end of its grant funding.

The province on Wednesday announced it will eliminate its parimutuel tax on horse racing wagers, a tax which in 2011 drew $857,000 in revenue for the province, down from its peak of $1.65 million in 1999.

"Eliminating this tax will allow the province’s horse racing industry to keep a larger portion of the revenues generated through wagers," Donna Harpauer, the minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA), said in a release.

Wagers made within the province, both at its own racetracks and on simulcast races conducted outside the province, have been subject to the tax.

Cutting out the tax "creates a more positive business environment that will allow us to continue to provide exciting racing entertainment," Mark Regier, CEO of Prairieland Park Corp., operators of Saskatoon’s Marquis Downs, said in the province’s release.

However, the move follows SLGA’s announcement this spring that Marquis and three other tracks — Regina’s West Meadows Raceway, Yorkton’s Cornerstone Raceway and Melville’s Agri-Park — will not receive SLGA grant funding after the 2012-13 fiscal year.

According to SLGA’s 2011-12 annual report, its grants to the horse racing industry totalled $1.5 million in that fiscal year, funding purses, racing operations, facility improvements and "breeding incentives."

By comparison, the total horse racing handle in Saskatchewan in 2011-12 was $8.6 million — $1.1 million from live racing, and $7.5 million from simulcasts. That’s down from a total handle of $9.1 million in 2010-11, SLGA said.

Saskatchewan’s 2012 live racing schedule included thoroughbred races at Marquis as well as standardbred harness races at Cornerstone Raceway from May through early September.

Four standardbred race dates were booked at West Meadows Raceway in September and early October, and a thoroughbred, quarter horse and speed horse racing day was set for Sept. 15 at the Agri-Park.

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