Horse Racing to Become a Staple at More Betting Sites

In Ontario, sports betting sites have become legal to use and delivered major revenues for both Ontario and its online regulatory bodies. More than $2 billion was wagered between April and June 2023, showing major growth from a year ago when the regulated iGaming market officially launched.

One of the gray areas at launch was horse racing. Many people were looking forward to sports betting and casino gaming, but there were uncertainties about how horse racing would be managed. Since then, it has been seen how obviously valuable horse racing betting can be to the sports betting stable.

Woodbine Entertainment

Word came down from Woodbine Entertainment Group CEO Jim Lawson that horse racing could be a major part of the picture for online sportsbooks in Ontario. The not-for-profit-like horse racing company has the goal of backing pari-mutuel wagering for horse racing across a wide array of Ontario sportsbooks that currently fall under provincial regulation.

If the response is amble enough, the reach could extend outside of Ontario as well. “We’re going to roll this out to other sports betting operators [in Ontario],” said Lawson. “But there’s a good chance we’ll be able to roll this out across Canada and work with the provincial lottery corporations in other provinces.”

Lawson has already indicated that operators from Ontario, like FanDuel and DraftKings, could be just the beginning. Moves into Manitoba, Quebec, and British Columbia have been pegged as “obvious” next stops when it comes to online horse betting partnerships. These provinces currently do not allow private operators to exist yet run sportsbooks through their provincial lotteries.

Woodbine already works with Bet365, effectively managing betting on horse races for both gaming companies and the provincial lottery. However, Ontario is the only province that allows private-sector sportsbooks to compete for business within provincial borders actively.

The current partnership that Woodbine has with Bet365 also acts as something of a proof of concept that can be tangibly seen by other provincial regulators. It shows that pari-mutuel wagering can be done both safely and legally across the board.

Lawson continued, “The path is clear to now say ‘Hey, we’ve done this, here’s how it works, here’s the technology, here’s the legal analysis. And there’s a good chance that this moves across the entire country over the next year.”

Woodbine Horse Race in Canada

King’s Plate Stakes

Where is this move coming from? Well, it has a lot to do with the King’s Plate Stakes that was recently held at Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack. The 164th running of the race, won by Paramount Prince, came with $1,000,000 prize money.

What’s even more impressive is the record level of wagering that took place. The total handle, as reported by Woodbine for the entire Sunday race card, topped more than $18.1 million CAD. This beat the previous record of $18 million CAD in 2019. The total wagering amount includes bets placed at the track, those placed at off-track betting facilities, Woodbine’s digital platforms like Dark Horse Bets and HPIbet, as well as online and retail racebooks based out of the United States.

The unique aspect of this year’s handle is that the majority of the betting came through Bet365. The two partnered together to provide pari-mutuel horse betting to those within the province. Lawson estimates that there is major revenue to be had from horse racing, as much as 8-10% of total sportsbook revenue.

Mutually Beneficial

What some may not remember is that Bet365 once offered users the chance to bet on horse racing. This was before official regulation from Ontario, which changed things for the entire province. Bet365 then removed horse race betting as part of its product offerings, disappointing those loyal to the sportsbook. The belief is that, with the introduction of horse race betting to most sportsbooks, Bet365 can win back some of the customers it once lost.

For Woodbine, there is the chance of major exposure to a litany of sports bettors who already wager religiously. It could be the chance to boost the horse-racing industry in a way that has not been there previously. Woodbine has taken concerns that legal online sports betting would damage horse racing and found a way to grow interest among the iGaming crowd.

“We’re attracting a whole new demographic of fans to horse racing through Bet365 and ultimately through all the other sports betting apps as we build this platform out,” Lawson continued. “And many others are interested in getting that horse racing content. We were just blown away by the overwhelming demand for tickets this year.”

There should be rapid change afoot as Woodbine has plans to install retail sportsbooks at its properties. On top of that, it plans to partner with another operator aside from Bet365 in order to capitalize on the allure of in-person betting.

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The Future of Horse Racing Betting in Ontario

Eamon Doggett - Horse Racing Expert Writer at GambleOntario

Eamon Doggett

9 Articles

Ontario has seen a lot of success since it made online sports betting legal. One area that’s really taking off is horse racing. Woodbine Entertainment, a big name in the horse racing world, is leading the charge to make horse racing a regular feature on betting websites in Ontario.

They’ve already teamed up with Bet365, a popular betting site, and the results are promising. In fact, a recent big horse race in Toronto set new records for the amount of money people bet.

Woodbine is now looking to expand this success to other parts of Canada. So, it looks like horse racing is not just here to stay in the world of online betting in Ontario, but it could become a big deal all across Canada.

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