(VANCOUVER, 24 March, 2005) - At a news
conference here today, Great Canadian Gaming Corporation (GCGC), announced the appointment
of Chuck Keeling as Vice-President, Racing Operations, responsible for Hastings Racecourse
in Vancouver, Fraser Downs in Surrey, Sandown Park near Victoria, and other horse racing
GCGC, the leading casino company in British
Columbia, with holdings in the State of Washington and other assets, began the acquisition
of the historic heart of Vancouver thoroughbred racing, Hastings Racecourse, in 2003. This
ownership was consolidated during the course of 2004. Late in 2004, GCGC began
negotiations to acquire Orangeville Raceway Ltd, the operators of the two B.C. harness
racing tracks, Fraser Downs and Sandown Park.
A $25 million redevelopment of Fraser Downs,
nearing completion, includes a modern casino with 420 slots and table machine games. Slots
have also been approved for Hastings and Sandown. Major redevelopment of those facilities
Speaking at the press conference, Anthony
Martin, the president and CEO of GCGC made it clear that the corporation believes in horse
racing and has embraced a long term vision for its future in this region. Martin played a
pivotal role in the acquisitions.
Chuck Keeling grew up in the horse racing
business. His grandfather, Jim Keeling Sr., founded Cloverdale Raceway - now Fraser Downs
- in 1976 and commenced harness racing at Sandown in 1978. His father, Jim Jr., a lawyer,
was general manager until his accidental death by drowning in 1996. The tight group of
shareholders, until the recent purchase, has included a harness racing legend, Keith
Waples. Both Waples and Keeling Sr. are members of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.
Chuck Keeling's first job was selling tip
sheets at the track when he was only 8. By the time he graduated from Simon Fraser
University with a degree in urban geography, he had done just about every operational job
at the track. When he overcame his father's objection and pursued a career in the sport,
he managed ancillary revenue operations such as parking, eventually becoming assistant to
the general manager. One of his key early assignments was to research every racing
jurisdiction in North America, analyzing why the industry was in decay and what might be
done about it. Upon the tragic death of his father in 1996, Chuck was awarded the general
manager's job, on a clearly probationary basis. He was just 24. He never looked back.
Chuck Keeling is a director of several horse
racing bodies, including Standardbred Canada, and a member of five separate Chambers of
Commerce where his firm does business. During 2005, he was the recipient of a Business in
Vancouver newspaper, "40 under 40" award, honouring the most dynamic young
executives of this region.
Speaking at the news conference today, Keeling
paid tribute to Michael Brown, general manager of Hastings Racecourse, and Bill McNeill,
who has just been appointed to become general manager at Fraser Downs. "I have spent
most of my career in a stagnating industry," he said. "With this strong
ownership and commitment, I sense that we have turned the corner and can begin the process
of restoring horse racing to what it once was."
Both he and Martin said that the
"passion" of GCGC chairman Ross McLeod, who has become a significant owner of
thoroughbred race horses, is the best possible evidence that this new era is for real.
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