On the heels of last week’s announcement of a continental-first deal between Monmouth Park and The BetMakers to distribute a fixed odds product on the New Jersey track’s races, Woodbine Entertainment CEO Jim Lawson has called for Ontario and all of Canada to embrace the opportunity.
Lawson’s remarks were carried by the Canadian Press on January 27, prior to the Monmouth announcement, though he added to them last Friday. In an original piece distributed across Canadian media, Lawson suggested the evolution to allow for single-game sports betting in Ontario is all about sustainability and competition.
Lawson is emphatic horse racing isn't looking for a free ride. Rather, the industry wants to sustain its current work levels while ensuring there's room for future growth.
Lawson said some of the profits generated from sports betting could return to the [horse racing] industry in the form of increased purses. That would help Ontario racing remain competitive with top American racing organizations.
"What it would do is give this industry the ability to stand on its own and support all the jobs and the economic impact," he said. "In doing so, we'd no longer need a subsidy.
"Our mindset is not to think of this as a windfall for us. This is a way to do the right thing, which is let an industry participate in a way that will sustain jobs and keep the money in Canada to support the local economies."
Lawson supplemented these remarks on Friday in an interview with Harness Racing Update’s Brett Sturman.
“You’re going to see more people wagering fixed-odds, as the horse racing demographic is going to shift that direction. The younger generation doesn’t necessarily like or warm up to pari-mutuel wagering, they’re used to a fixed odds format.
“That’s certainly been the case in Australia where fixed odds wagering is flourishing to the point where it’s now accounting for over 50 per cent, maybe as high as 65 per cent of win, place and show wagering relative to pari-mutuel. So, you can see the impact that fixed-odds wagering can have and will have, and it will hurt pari-mutuel wagering. In Canada right now, the situation will become more desperate, where not only will the government have to look at single-event sports wagering, but we’ve got fixed-odds wagering coming on horse racing (in the U.S.) and the impact could be even greater than anticipated because fixed-odds wagering on horse racing is coming to competitor tracks.
“I see fixed-odds wagering having a real home in win, place and show wagering, but I think the exotic wagering for a whole lot of reasons is a better proposition for pari-mutuel wagering and for creating large pools. They can both coexist.
“There’s no reason not to look to the experience in Australia where it’s become more and more popular and they do coexist. There is definitely room for both, but there is growth particularly with the new generation that loves online poker, loves betting on football, and the way you’re going to attract them more easily is with fixed-odds wagering.”
Just more than a year ago, the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation published “Horse Racing and ‘Legal’ Sports Betting,” encouraging the greater North American racing industry to pursue adding fixed odds options to complement its existing pari-mutuel product. In its most recent paper, “American Racing’s Sustainable Future,” among its recommendations included a suggested push to expand racing, and betting, into markets where it is not currently legal, highlighting the opportunity facing Georgia.
Horse racing has faced limits from various well-populated states – wagering remains wholly illegal in the nation’s eighth most-populous state, Georgia, as well as South Carolina, for example. Wagering on racing in Texas is limited to racetracks, keeping customers in the nation’s second most populated state from opening advanced deposit wagering accounts.
One positive development in the quest to expand came in July when North Carolina voted to legalize expanded gambling at two casinos on tribal lands in the state. Of note, the law specifically allows for fixed odds and pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing. While the reach of these North Carolina properties is limited, and no online component is permitted at present, it is a first step in the state which is expected to consider potential wider legalization in future legislative sessions.