Woodbine CEO Jim Lawson is concerned about a pending bill that could impact the Canadian racing industry. It concerns legalizing single-event sports wagering in Canada.
Now before the Parliament in the Canadian House of Commons, the bill would not allow for the racetracks to be part of the sports betting universe.
In addition, it would allow non-racing betting sites to take fixed-odds bets on racing without sharing any revenue with the industry. According to Lawson,
“This is a real threat to the industry; certainly the Canadian government cannot
ignore horse racing or they risk putting the horse racing industry under.”
Lawson fears that the Canadian government is so desperate to fund its numerous expenses that that lawmakers might jump at the opportunity to legalize sports betting as a quick fix beyond increasing taxes.
No wonder the four largest parties in the House of Commons–Liberal, Conservative, Bloc Québécois, and New Democratic are supporting the bill. It mirrors what U.S. states have been doing with the difference that it lumps fixed-odds bets on racing in with sports betting.
Per Lawson, horseracing should be the beneficiaries of fixed-odds betting on horse racing.
You can’t allow someone else to encroach upon our only revenue source and away
that revenue source by allowing fixed-odds wagering on a product we are producing.”
He laments the possibility of Woodbine being left out. It could lose a great percentage of its wagering.
Plus, young bettors, for the most part, don’t like complicated pari-mutuel wagering. They are used to fixed-odds betting on football.
It won’t matter for Lawson if the bill is reworded to allow the tracks to operate and profit from fixed-odds wagering. He wants Woodbine to get a cut of the sports betting pie as it will be so large that it will cannibalize betting on racing.
Sports betting has its proponents as a way to end government subsidies.
“The Ontario government is subsidizing horse racing through a funding
agreement… let us make up for the money through sports betting. We are
not looking for a monopoly; we just want to be cut in.”
This is a valid argument to protect the horse racing industry and allowing Woodbine to be a participant. Not only would a revised bill support horse racing, it would also support all the related jobs across the country.
The bill will not be voted on this year, giving Woodbine and other industry leaders a chance to plead their case. With no guarantee that it will work, Lawson is concerned about Woodbine’s future.