October 25, 2014

Greenhawk’s CEO Implores MPPs To Reinstate Slots at Racetracks Or Vote Down the Budget

Greenhawk CEO Ian Russell has written to all Ontario MPPs, stressing that the cancellation of the Slots at Racetracks program “will do irreversible damage to the health of the horse industry in Ontario.”

Headquartered in Mississauga, ON, Greenhawk supplies harness and equestrian goods across Canada and employs approximately 350 people, half of those in Ontario.

Read the full text of the letter by clicking here.

“People are rethinking breeding or foaling mares in Ontario,” Nick Eaves Tells Toronto Star

Jennifer Morrison sat down with Nick Eaves, Woodbine Entertainment Group president and chief executive officer, to discuss the season and the controversial cancellation of the slots-at-racetracks program:

Q: The announcement by the Liberal government that the slots-at-racetracks revenue sharing program will be terminated at Ontario tracks on March 31, 2013 came as a shock to the industry. Three tracks have already had the slots closed. What are you telling Woodbine horsepeople/employees right now?

A: Our approach is to continue to run a business and offer the highest quality of horse racing. Our financial arrangements stay the same for this year. All the tracks have been issued a site-holder termination notice (for the slots) but we hope, at some point, there can be a dialogue with the province.

Q: Are there any negative effects being felt yet from these announcements?

A: It’s potentially very serious for the industry. As far as the breeding sector, which supplies horses for our racing, decisions need to be made now for future plans, and I am already hearing every day that people are rethinking breeding or foaling mares in Ontario.

Q: Woodbine has been a bit quiet in its reaction throughout the two months since the original Drummond report recommendation to re-evaluate the slots contract. Why?

A: We wholly support the industry and Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association to tell the story about what the outcome of this would mean, not only to the horse racing industry but the province as well. But there simply has not been enough communication to know what the thinking is by the province.

Ontario can be very proud of how racing, both thoroughbred and standardbred has evolved internationally and we are determined to sit down and make the relationship (with the province and Ontario Lottery and Gaming) continue to work.

Q: Does that mean that Woodbine wants a casino?

A: At the core of the province’s expansion and reworking of gambling is another casino in the GTA by 2017. Woodbine is a natural place for it. We already have thousands of slot machines, and the finishing touches are being completed, by us, on the newest first-floor addition of slot machines.

Q: Thoroughbred racing in Ontario is considered one of the top circuits in all of North America and it has a lot of American interest. Can that keep going?

A: The Woodbine racing product has had three straight years of significant increase in wagering. Last year alone, wagering on Woodbine racing was up 8 per cent. A lot of that was American growth, but we continue to look for ways to boost our home market. The reality is, we have momentum and we look forward to carrying it over to 2012.

Q: What are some of the things that fans can look forward to in 2012?

A: We are relaunching our mobile application imminently for betting on any handheld device . . . We were one of the first to offer that option years ago and now with so many devices available, we want to make it easy and fun for a fan to bet the races. We are going to do even more with the big events this year, involving tent parties and walking ring events to really expand the big-event feel and bring fans closer to the sport.

(Toronto Star, April 5, 2012)