Woodbine CEO Jim Lawson discussed a variety of key topics and issues related to Woodbine Mohawk Park and its world-class Standardbred racing product during Thursday’s virtual ‘Stronger Together’ event.
Lawson covered several areas of interests in his hour-long discussion with Chad Rozema, including Woodbine Mohawk Park’s lucrative 2022 stakes schedule, Home Market wagering, the sports betting landscape in Ontario, horse supply in the province, and the significance of the Mohawk Million.
Near the end of his discussion with Rozema, Lawson answered a series of questions that were submitted through the Woodbine Mohawk website.
Here are seven quotes that stood out:
Ontario horsepeople should be applauded for their resiliency throughout the pandemic.
“After a lot of hard work, not just by Woodbine management, but by the entire industry, I want to thank everyone for their support. I do think that this sport, this industry, certainly gained recognition in the [government-instituted protocols and regulations] considerations as time went on. It was a difficult period again because of the pandemic. We would not have made it through this period as well as we did without the cooperation and help of the horsepeople.”
Woodbine Mohawk Park racing did more with less in 2021.
“When we were running five cards a week in the summer, we were averaging $10 million [in handle] each week, which was a new threshold for us. The stopping and starting [of live racing, in regard to the government-sanctioned shutdowns], had a dramatic impact on our overall numbers. We had 178 cards in 2020, down to 157 cards in 2021. If you look at that number, $324,038,371.56 million over 157 cards, that’s the highest number for a harness track in North America. We can be really proud of that.”
Raising Home Market wagering numbers is an area of focus
“The one concern I would have is that HMA wagering is down. You can see it down 14 percent, year over year. I hope people understand that those OSS purses are derived from HMA wagering, so that’s a concern for the Ontario industry. We have to find a way and we are working hard at it.”
The Breeders Crown is a crowning moment on the Woodbine Mohawk Park 2022 calendar.
“We do it so well. We have a great relationship with John Campbell and the Hambletonian Society. They wanted us to do it and we think it’s the right thing for the industry. The wagering we had in 2019 was spectacular and I know we’ll do that again this year. I couldn’t be more excited about it. It will be a great couple of nights.”
The Mohawk Million (woodbine.com/mohawk/mohawk-news/venerable-is-mohawk-million-queen/) is big for the industry across the board.
“We are huge proponents of this race. It’s been a great event the first couple of years. When I say a great event, I think it helps everyone in the industry. It’s a great and exciting product to market. The wagering’s been extremely good on that night, and it’s been a good card to advertise as the future stars of the sport. It’s just a great event.”
Circle the date for the Pepsi North America Cup on June 18.
“As our racing team looked across North America at the opportunities to slot this race in the perfect time slot, we came back to June again, which is the traditional time. I think it’s the right thing to do, in terms of the timing of it as it to relates to other racetracks. We’ve all got to cooperate and not compete with each other. I think it’s the right time for it. I’m very comfortable with the decision and I look forward to it. I think it’s going to be a great race.”
Woodbine Entertainment is working to keep pace with a new sports betting landscape in Ontario.
“Sports betting is what we do. Woodbine is the leading sports betting operator in this country right now. Where we are right now is certainly making sure we try and stay in the game, relative to sports betting. We have to try and hold our own. The industry, and largely led by Woodbine, I think did a great job with the federal government, lobbying, when they were looking at introducing and legalizing sports betting. As we look around the corner, online gaming coming on April 4, we have to hold our own.”