Updated on 02/14/2013 5:05PM

Woodbine eliminates 109 positions as end of slots program nears


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Woodbine Entertainment Group, cutting operational costs in anticipation of the end of the racetracks-at-slots program on March 31, has eliminated 109 positions, which amounts to 25 percent of its salaried workforce.

The Woodbine Entertainment Group announced the “restructuring” in a press release late Wednesday afternoon.

The job cuts, some of which date back to late 2012, do not include a significant number of hourly positions. But the remaining amount of hourly work available will be reduced and a number of jobs will become seasonal rather than full-time.

The positions of several vice presidents were eliminated, including Bruce Murray, Standardbred racing, and Andrew Macdonald, strategic initiatives. Departments that were hit hard include television and media communications. The racing department thus far has not been affected.

The downsizing follows Woodbine Entertainment Group’s announcement late last month that Woodbine would be reducing its Thoroughbred racing dates to 133 and its combined Standardbred dates, between Woodbine and Mohawk Raceway, to 183.

A total of 167 days originally had been scheduled for last year’s Thoroughbred meeting but 11 Thursday programs were dropped through the closing months to counter a projected purse overpayment. A total of 211 Standardbred dates were run in 2012.

The Woodbine Entertainment Group had announced this year’s dates reductions in conjunction with the news that it had reached a two-year transitional funding agreement with the government of Ontario and an agreement in principle with the Ontario Lottery Corporation over leases for continuing slots operations at Woodbine and Mohawk.

Those slots operations previously had yielded 10 percent to Woodbine Entertainment Group for operating costs and 10 percent to the horsemen for purses, with 5 percent going to the host municipalities and the balance to the province.

According to the Ontario Lottery Corporation’s 2010-2011 annual report, which contains the most recent figures available, Woodbine and its horsemen each received almost $59 million and Mohawk and its horsemen netted $15 million during that fiscal year.

A three-man panel comprised of former Ontario cabinet ministers had recommended last fall that purses should be supported by commissions from the pari-mutuel handle.

The Woodbine Entertainment Group said in a Jan. 24 release that average daily purses for Thoroughbreds should be comparable to those in 2012.

The Woodbine Thoroughbred meeting is scheduled to open April 19. The backstretch will open March 1.


Bruce Baudoux More than 1 year ago
It looks like the gravy train has left the station. The WEG or The Old Boys Club as referred to by many had a terrific run for many years and unfortuneately all good things come to an end. Woodbine hosted the Breeders Cup in 96 and it was guns ablazing ever since. World class events featuring world class runners were the norm here and never a negative word was muttered about the treatment received by the distinguished visitors from abroad. Woodbine was the Fall place to race for many European horsemen and the turf course regarded as the best in North America. Purses were on par with the best race tracks in North America for daily distribution and the stakes program very lucrative for horsemen everywhere. The decision by the incumbent political party has certainly put a damper on horse racing in Ontario and until more research can be gathered to show the government the importance of this industry on the overall economy, we are at their mercy. Here's to the glory days of the WEG and hopes for reversal in the not to distant future. Best of luck to all those affected by the down sizing.
Chas More than 1 year ago
Sorry to say but this is what happens when the government in charge is either Liberals or Democrats, which ever term you want to use...Democrats run my state, California, and just look at the slow death of horse racing out here...of course the CHRB, has not helped in slowly destorying the sport...All politicians see is $$$ and Power...they are just to brain dead to see that horse racing is indeed a business industry that provides jobs and economy that provides tax revenue to the tracks local, state or province and government...Everyone prospers in a free enterprise society - But, in a socialist society only the politicians prosper...
russell More than 1 year ago
Very true. But they have "our" interest" at heart
Randy Atkins More than 1 year ago
And I thought that the Canadian Government was smarter than the U.S. Gov. guess I was wrong..they both operate on the same level of stupidity
russell More than 1 year ago
The Ontario Gov't is beyond stupid. Save the last top track that you have. The USA has several top tracks and if Ontario screws Woodbine they are insane. Canada used to have Northern Dancer and had a very good breeding program. The Canadian Government sanctions brutal "chuck wagon" races at the Calgary Stampede but they won't help Woodbine? Watch a chuck wagon race before you comment. The breakdown are horrific cause if one horse gets injured the rest of the team gets hurt. Makes NO SENSE!!!
Jack More than 1 year ago
Tip of the iceberg... 1t nail in woodbines coffin
Gerard C More than 1 year ago
If the Ontario government doesn't open Ft. Erie Race Track it will be criminal. Why WEG and Ft. Erie cannot work together as one is sad. WEG can be the "A" meet and Ft. Erie can be the "B" meet with only $3,500 to $7,500 claiming races. The people in Ft. Erie are reeling over the loss of jobs due to the mismanagement of the Ontario government. How you close a casino that is making money is beyond reproach. Obviously, the people making decisions do not realize how reciprocal the job loss will be down the road. Partially subsiding Ft. Erie Race Track will be pale compared to what lies ahead for the city. Most people who work the backside of a race track have done it their whole life. That is all they know.
bob costello More than 1 year ago
The Ontario government is too busy playing politics instead of governing. Hopefully, it's stay in power is short enough to allow saner minds to prevail.