Woodbine, Horsemen Sign Three-Year Contract

Woodbine, Horsemen Sign Three-Year Contract
Photo: Woodbine Entertainment Group
Woodbine in Ontario, Canada

Woodbine Entertainment Group and the Ontario Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association June 7 said they have signed a contract that guarantees 133 days of live racing at Woodbine through 2018.

Woodbine was awarded 133 Thoroughbred racing programs for 2016. The track near Toronto, Ontario, Canada, also offers a winter Standardbred meet.

This year's meet began April 9. Officials said the previous contract ended March 31; the new one expires March 31, 2019.

"This three-year extension of our deal with the horse people allows us to build on the momentum of the current success of our 2016 racing season," WEG chief executive officer Jim Lawson said in a release. "It also sets the foundation for a deeper relationship between Woodbine and Ontario's horse people in the short- and long-term."

The two parties said the new deal includes a "commitment to revenue-sharing between WEG and horsemen." Purses and breed development programs no longer receive a cut of revenue from slot machines at Ontario tracks, but the provincial government is working with Woodbine and the racing industry at large to develop new gaming products.

"Woodbine and its horse people must work together in cooperation in order to face the many outside challenges before our industry," Ontario HBPA president Sue Leslie said. "This agreement exhibits the commitment needed to help provide stability and assurance that we are on the same path together moving forward."

The provincial government in 2012 voted to eliminate the revenue racing received from Ontario's slots-at-racetracks program and also removed gaming machines from multiple tracks; several harness tracks ended up closing. Since then it has provided about $50 million a year for racing, much less than the more than $300 million the industry received from slots revenue.

Tracks and horsemen split the 20% share of slots revenue 50-50.

In 2012, the last year of the slots-at-racetracks program, Woodbine raced 156 programs. Purses totaled $79.36 million for a daily average of $508,716 per day, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems.

Last year, for 133 programs, Woodbine paid $56.75 million in purses for an average of $426,712. For 28 racing programs so far this year, the track has paid $10.52 million in purses for an average of $375,972 per day.

The average number of horses per race so far this year is 8.45.

Meanwhile, Fort Erie Race Track, one of the facilities that had its slots removed but remained open for live racing and full-card simulcasts, began its 40-day meet March 31. The track near the United States border is the only other Thoroughbred track in Ontario.

Last year for a 40-day meet, Fort Erie paid $3.45 million in purses for an average of $91,144; that's down from $102,814 per day for 74 days in 2012, the track's last year with slots.

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