Jane Holmes, a spokesperson for the Canadian horse racing firm Woodbine Entertainment Group, outlined the competitive impact of online gambling this week in an interview with the Toronto Sun newspaper in which she claimed that the racetrack is currently losing almost Cdn$ 200 million a year to what she termed "illegal" online gaming.
Whilst Ms. Holmes may need to refresh her memory on the legality of online gambling in Canada, it was an interesting interview giving an alternative persepective to the impact of Internet gambling in Ontario.
Holmes says there is very little her company can do to compete: "It continues to be a challenge," she says of the horse racing industry's efforts to stay viable.
Perhaps unwittingly admitting to one of the positive features of competition from a player angle, Holmes told the newspaper: "The illegal Internet gaming does have an impact. If we don't offer customers exactly what they want, they have so many opportunities to get around us and bet offshore. It is a huge impact. It's not just horse racing wagering. Some people have moved to online poker. Most people think it is kind of legal here, but it isn't. It's just that nobody enforces it."
Holmes argues that part of any money wagered at her firm's racetrack goes back into the industry. When it is wagered offshore, "…the race tracks and horse people don't get any revenue from that. It doesn't generate jobs here. It doesn't contribute to the economy."
"Fifty percent of the commissions we make is put back into purses," she claimed. "If you start losing handle and wagering, it affects the purses and the revenues the owners make and it has a spin-off effect on the jockeys and everyone else right back to the agricultural community. We estimate illegal internet gambling takes away about Cdn$ 200 million annually from our handle [Cdn$ 866 million – ed] at Woodbine."
Holmes explains why Internet gambling is such a formidable competitor, saying that online betting can offer better takeouts to customers because it does not have the huge infrastructure that tracks such as Woodbine have to pay for. Racetracks also can't do some of the things offered on the Internet.
"We can't compete with them because, if we did, we'd lose our racing licences," Holmes says. "It's illegal. We can't offer the same opportunities."