Can single game sports betting in Canada save Toronto horse racing?
The legal status of gambling activities in Canada are plainly systematic in some ways, yet disorienting in others. Horse racing – check; federal level. Lotteries – check; provincial level. Casinos – check; provincial level. Sports betting – um, yes and no; provincial regulation amidst federal convolution.
Confused yet? Most people are. The fact is, the federal government enjoys having reign over the racing industry, as it was for decades the most popular form of gambling in the nation. It’s federally regulated so that all provinces can host it—and profit from it—regardless of their governing opinion towards gambling as a vice or pastime.
Now, equestrian sports are flagging, while other athletic betting opportunities rise. But Canadians aren’t able to place wagers on a single football or hockey game (at least, not here in Canada), and only the provinces are capable of taking parlay (multiple-outcome) wagers on sports. If that doesn’t change post-haste, it may spell the end of Woodbine Racetrack and other racing arenas across the country.
Solution: Single Game Sports Betting in Canada
Jim Lawson, CEO of Woodbine Entertainment Group, believes the legalization of single-event sports wagers is the answer to revitalizing—nay, saving—the Toronto horse racing facility. In the early years, racing was more than enough to bring adequate funds. Then, with revenue flagging, OLG Slots were installed by Ontario Lottery and Gaming regulators. Again, it was more than enough to keep the racetrack afloat. Until recently…
A few years ago, OLG decided to privatize its slot machine industry, awarding managerial duties to commercial casino corporations like Great Canadian Gaming and Gateway Casinos & Entertainment.
The result has been great for OLG, but terrible for the racetracks that depended on that slot machine revenue. With a lofty portion going to the new operators, Woodbine now gets very little from slot machines, and Lawson is worried that without a new source of revenue, the horse racing industry will not survive much longer.
In a brief interview with the Toronto Sun, Lawson expressed his esperance towards bringing a Toronto sports betting facility to Woodbine. Legalization of single-event wagering “is very much on our radar screen,” he said. And if that legalization were to come with privatization, whereby Woodbine could launch its own sportsbook, Lawson is certain it would solve the problem.
Woodbine Ready for Toronto Sports Betting
“We are very strong believers that with the infrastructure of our tote system and our (online wagering system, HPI) that we already have the whole backbone to run sports betting.”
Lawson says it’s not just Woodbine’s readiness and willingness to provide customers with a sportsbook in Toronto that motivates him, but a serious “need to participate in sports wagering”. There are tens of thousands of employees all across Ontario that ‘need‘ the industry to survive, and to thrive once more.
Racing supports more than the thousands of track staff members. Countless breeders, trainers, and jockeys, the employees of manufacturing groups that produce the multitude of necessities for the industry. If Canada’s horse racing industry falters, the impact will be far-reaching. And if Lawson is correct, all it would take is the alteration of one simple line of text in the Canadian law books—one little line that would legalize single game sports betting in Canada—to solve the problem.
“I think that there’s an opportunity to really prop up tens of thousands of jobs in this province by having a company like Woodbine participate in sports wagering. If sports betting comes to fruition,” Lawson romanticized, “I hope and expect (Ontario’s government) will look to Woodbine.”