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Standardbred racing in Ontario is on track toward a sustainable future

Friday, April 24, 2015  By: John Siscos


Toronto, ON --- The Standardbred Alliance today declared that significant wagering growth, stable purses and integrated marketing efforts from the first year of operation are showing signs that Standardbred racing in Ontario is on track toward a sustainable future.


Led by Woodbine Entertainment Group, the Standardbred Alliance is a consortium of eight Ontario racetracks created in April 2014. Its goal is to deliver Standardbred racing and wagering opportunities with a focus on ease-of-access to customers, consistent racing opportunities and purses for its participants, efficient track operations and coordinated efforts to attract new fans. The members represent a three-tier racing hierarchy: Grassroots (Clinton, Hanover), Signature (Flamboro, Georgian, Grand River and Western Fair) and Premier (Mohawk and Woodbine).


Among the successes in Year 1 was a sharp increase in wagering. Between April 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015, wagering pools for Alliance tracks grew by 16.6 percent, thanks to the increased distribution through an integrated off-track wagering network, as well as schedule co-ordination among Signature tracks, which maximized wagering opportunities. Signature tracks enjoyed several programs with wagering in excess of $400,000, and in general achieved wagering totals not seen in years. Meanwhile, overall wagering, including Alliance tracks and WEG’s on-track and off-track operations, exceeded targets by more than $14 million, reaching $808 million for the fiscal year.


“The results so far are really remarkable, especially given all the pessimism there was about horse racing only a year ago,” said Jamie Martin, Chairman of the Standardbred Alliance. “It’s still early days, but we’re seeing positive signs that the new Alliance model is working for the industry and for racing fans, and we’re cautiously optimistic that Standardbred racing in Ontario is on the right track for a better future.”


A core objective for the Alliance is to maintain a live racing schedule with competitive purses. When it was formed, Alliance tracks set minimum purse targets for Premier, Signature and Grassroots racing, and in 2014-2015 daily purses not only met, but exceeded those targets in all three racing tiers. Total race days, at 593, were on track with target, and the Alliance honored its commitment to continue or reinstate such high-profile stakes races as the Kin Pace at Clinton, the Earl Rowe at Georgian and the Molson Pace at Western Fair.


As part of its efforts to improve the quality and consistency of the customer experience and attract larger wagering pools, the Alliance adopted a single betting platform -- including betting devices and simulcast operations -- across member tracks, and consolidated off-track betting operations under a single OTB license, smoothing out inconsistencies in delivery and offerings while maximizing efficiencies. OTB operations were expanded and consolidated into the Champions network of Teletheaters, which now total 45 locations across the province. The network generated more than $350 million in wagering in Year 1, with significant gains from the newly acquired sites.


Meanwhile, Alliance tracks worked together to build horseplayer interest and attract new customers to Standardbred racing. A good example of the shared vision in action is the co-ordination of marketing efforts, including increased promotion of Alliance racing product and trial-and-education campaigns that successfully attracted thousands of new fans to racing in Year 1.


“We’re seeing our fan base growing and wagering recovering after a couple of very tough years of uncertainty for Standardbred racing,” said Martin. “There’s a lot more to be done, of course, but the good news is the Alliance model is already producing results, and we’re committed to making sure it does for many years to come.”

 


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