Updated on 02/14/2013 4:05PM

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.