The Kentucky Derby, one of the most exciting horse racing events in the industry will be contested over the weekend. However, despite numerous online sports betting options available, Ontarians are still waiting on regulated sportsbooks to add horse races as a legal option. Therefore, leaving fans with the limited options of HPIbet and Dark Horse Bets.
Currently, the law says that the only legal form of wagering on horse racing is through the pooled, pari-mutuel model, which is governed at the federal level government. This is due to the fact, that the industry was excluded from the legislation which decriminalized single-event betting in 2021. Meaning, that regulated operators in Ontario are not permitted to add it as a legal offering.
Woodbine is Working on the Expansion
Fans of the sport can still wager on horse racing but their options are limited to two digital platforms – HPIbet and Dark Horse Bets. Both apps are tied to the Toronto-based racetrack operator Woodbine Entertainment, as the organization is the only holder of a federal pari-mutuel betting license in the province, enabling it to offer horse racing wagers online, at the track, and OTBs.
But there is hope as the equine racing operator is working to collaborate with licensed sportsbooks in the province and add betting on races. Allowing prominent brands such FanDuel, DraftKings, and other to offer it. Michael Copeland, president of commercial operations for Woodbine, said that the integration could be completed before this year’s fall and that the operator remains cautiously optimistic.
Via this arrangement sportsbooks will gain additional betting market in the province and potentially give the operator a new source of horseplayers. This collaboration would also benefit the local horse racing industry, which usually relies on funding provided by pari-mutuel betting and has to compete with sports betting brands for exposure and gamblers’ wagers.
Mr. Copeland shared that the technical work which had to be done to integrate their systems with online sportsbooks was essentially done. He also noted that the company held positive discussions with government agencies, such as iGaming Ontario. And once all testing is done and regulators are satisfied with the product then wagering on horses will be available.
Market Will Benefit Woodbine and the Industry
Woodbine Entertainment’s involvement in Ontario’s iGaming space will certainly help the company as it handled massive volumes of wagers for its first year of operations. In April, the province handled CA$35.6 billion in wagers and brought CA$1.4 billion in revenue while players had an average monthly spend of CA$70. These numbers put the sector among the top five in the North American region.
The digital model is overseen by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and iGO, who make sure that all regulated operators are complying with the gaming Standards. In April, AGCO imposed fines on three operators who offered uncertified slot games. The three brands are ComeOn!, Conquestador, and Leo Vegas, will now have to pay hefty monetary fines.
Source: Zochodne, Geoff “As Derby Day Nears, Sports Betting Sites Still Lack Horse Racing in Ontario” Covers, May 4, 2023