On Tuesday, April 18, 2023, Ontario’s Fort Erie Race Track said that it has filed a complaint against Woodbine Entertainment regarding an ongoing dispute with the operator. The track cited scheduling and horse supply issues and allegedly held a monopoly on the local horse racing industry. The grievance was submitted to the Canadian Trade Commission.
A few years ago, Woodbine introduced a horse shipping policy, and the FELRC’s board of directors claims it was added to hurt Fort Erie and its supply by restricting the movement of horses between the two tracks. The board believes Woodbine takes advantage of its position as a market leader which was affecting the track’s ability to run a fulsome racing schedule.
Close to Monopoly on the Market
Jim Thibert, CEO of the FELRC asserted that Woodbine Entertainment held almost a monopoly on the local horse racing industry. He added that Ontario Racing, which is the provincial governing body of the industry in the province, had little to no ability to mitigate issues between tracks and that it was administered entirely through Ontario Racing Management Inc., a subsidiary of Woodbine.
He also noted that the operator’s practices towards the track were unfair and evidently predatorial. The CEO said the current situation is harmful to owners, trainers, jockeys, and other directly employed in the Thoroughbred racing industry in the province. He also said the operator refused to work in the best interest of the industry with its adjusted schedule for the Canadian Triple Crown.
Due to changes in the calendar, Fort Erie had to push its trademark Prince of Wales Stakes race out of the summer tourism season and into September. Woodbine has also refused to revert back the changes to its Canadian Triple Crown. This subsequently left no choice to Fort Erie but to run its Prince of Wales Stakes again in September. This also led to a decrease in on-track wagering during the event.
In its statement, the track gave other alleged examples of Woodbine’s hostility with its continued practice of significantly boosting purses in lower-level races in comparison to Fort Erie’s and in claiming races in particular. The track said the use of provincial subsidies for horse racing should not be allowed when the leader is running more and more of the track’s race offerings.
Meanwhile, Woodbine responded that the recent allegations were unsubstantiated and without merit and that it will vigorously and confidently defend itself if stated by the Canadian Trade Commission or any other regulator. It also mentioned that the organization is proud of its role in supporting the strength, success, and growth of the Ontario horse racing industry.
It was recently revealed by Woodbine, that the operator will be parting ways with its long-term CEO and President, Jim Lawson. The 64-year-old will be stepping down from the position in the fall of 2023, but an exact date is yet to be revealed. There are expectations within the horse racing group that he will stay with it but under a different role.
Source: “Fort Erie Files Complaint Against Woodbine, Citing Scheduling And Horse Supply Issues” Paulick Report, April 18, 2023