Is Horse Racing Dead? Not in Canada

Woodbine Racecourse Reports Big Year in 2023

TORONTO, December, 2023 – Woodbine Entertainment announced the 2023 Thoroughbred season produced an all-sources handle of $613,125,180 CAD. This is the second largest single-season handle in Woodbine’s history, but down $8 million from 2022.

“Our 2023 Thoroughbred racing meet produced very strong results thanks to our exciting racing product, the strength of the Woodbine brand, and the hard work of our team and the entire horse racing community,” said Michael Copeland, CEO, Woodbine Entertainment. “The results are especially encouraging considering the industry trends our sport is facing with increased competition from sports betting, growing purses in some jurisdictions largely due to ancillary gaming revenues, extreme weather factors that have cancelled an unprecedented number of race cards, North American horse supply, and larger macroeconomic factors like inflation and the uncertainty of the U.S. dollar.

Woodbine via WO FB page“While we are proud of our results, we cannot be complacent, and we need to focus on the industry trends and other opportunities that will help us navigate these headwinds.”

In 2023, a total of 1,180 races were contested over 128 dates of racing compared to 1,198 races over 132 dates in 2022. Woodbine ran four less dates and 18 less races in 2023 due to an unprecedented number of cancelled race cards (5) because of extreme heat and poor air quality caused by smoke from forest fires across Canada.

Healthy Average Field Size at Woodbine

The average field size for those races was 8.2, the same as 2022, and above the industry average.

In Ontario, wagering on Woodbine Thoroughbred racing by customers across the province was down 6.2% ($81.8 million this season vs $87.2 million in 2022).

The decline in home market wagering was partially mitigated by a foreign market handle of $512 million, a decrease from $515 million in 2022, though still a remarkable gain from the previous record of $420 million in 2021. The $512 million in foreign market handle was supported by a strong U.S. dollar.

The average handle per race in 2023 was a record $519,597. This is an increase of $580 per race from 2022.

To address the increased competition from an emerging licensed sports betting market, Woodbine Entertainment announced a partnership with global sports betting leader bet365 prior to The King’s Plate. It includes the integration of pari-mutuel horse racing into bet365’s licensed sportsbook platform in Ontario. Woodbine plans to integrate its racing product in additional licensed Ontario sports books in 2024 in hopes of generating increased handle in the province and engagement with a new audience.

“We are operating on a very solid foundation that positions us well to manage the current industry and economic trends,” added Copeland. “We also have opportunities before us that have not been fully realized yet, like the integration of racing into licensed sportsbooks, which will have a positive impact.”

Key Highlights – 2023 at Woodbine

  • Second highest single-season all-sources handle ($613M) in Woodbine history
  • Second highest single-season foreign handle ($512M) in Woodbine history
  • Record-breaking average per-race handle of $519,597
  • Average field size of 8.2 (above North American industry average)
  • Woodbine saw the return of the King’s Plate for the first time in over 70 years with winner Paramount Prince. The total all-sources wagering on King’s Plate day was a record $18,127,049
  • The integration of pari-mutuel racing into bet365’s licensed online sports book in Ontario

The 2024 Woodbine Thoroughbred season is scheduled to begin on Saturday, April 27. The 165th running of The King’s Plate will take place on Saturday, August 17.

For the latest information on Woodbine Racetrack, visit Woodbine.com or follow @WoodbineTB or @WoodbineComms on Twitter.