Woodbine Entertainment Group
With its roots dating back to 1881, Woodbine Entertainment Group [WEG] grew to become the leader in Canada’s entertainment industry with a renowned presence on the international horse racing scene. Long recognized as the country’s largest and most innovative horse racing operator, the company has grown into an admired and respected multi-purpose entertainment organization delivering first-class service within its world-class facilities.
As a not-for-profit corporation, Woodbine Entertainment Group has no shareholders and, as required under its “not-for-profit” status it reinvests the cash flow into upgrading its facilities and products, and commits to maximizing its financial performance in order to achieve the highest quality of horse racing.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Integrity and accountability represent the core values of Woodbine Entertainment Group, building on the earned trust, and ensuring long-term economic sustainability of the Woodbine business.
The company website reads “… integrity and respect are fundamental in every aspect of our business and how we interact with stakeholders, the public and one another … excellence and accountability drive our actions and decisions to consistently deliver the best racing, entertainment and customer experience possible … act in an ethical, honest and trustworthy manner.”
John Siscos, Senior Manager of Communications for Woodbine Entertainment Group, told The Canadian Business Journal, “We realize that we are prominent Ontario organization, so our corporate social responsibility is extremely important to us. We abide by our traditional core values of integrity, respect, excellence and accountability. We create positive economic impact, create jobs and a healthy work place, and we are committed to environmental sustainability. What we stress at every step is the welfare of the horse and the rider, and the promotion of responsible gaming.” To uphold its commitments, Woodbine Entertainment Group continues to reinvest in its people and facilities. Woodbine Entertainment Group employs approximately 2,300 full and part-time employees, and works with a coaching firm to develop and sustain a coaching and leadership training program that fits the Woodbine organization. The company also installed a new, synthetic racetrack surface, and this all-weather track allows for safer racing. “One of our mantras is the health and welfare of the horse and the rider, and the Polytrack allows us to stress that and bring the safety to the next level. Thanks to this track we are very well regarded when it comes to the track safety. Besides the track, we have been continuously reinvesting in our facilities as a whole. We have invested millions to upgrade our facilities. We are widely regarded as a strong community partner which supports local organizations. We’re proud of that too.”
Venues, Products and Services
Woodbine owns and operates Woodbine and Mohawk Racetracks, showcasing the very best in live thoroughbred and standardbred racing, with nearly 3,000 slots machines at Woodbine, and over 1,000 at Mohawk (operated by Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation), and offering casual and formal dining. Besides these live horse racing attractions, the company operates 26 Champions Off-Track Wagering outlets, bringing the thrill of horse racing into most neighbourhoods across the Greater Toronto Area; HorsePlayer Interactive, Canada’s premiere online and telephone wagering service; HPItv, broadcasting live horse racing into homes across Canada all year round; as well as Turf Lounge, where fine dining meets the excitement of horse racing in downtown Toronto; and WEGZ Stadium Bar in Vaughan, elevating a traditional sports bar to a whole new level.
“We are amongst the oldest and largest horse racing companies in North America, providing harness and thoroughbred racing in Canada. In the early 20th century Woodbine operated across many thoroughbred tracks across Ontario, but it was all consolidated at Woodbine in 1956. Our Mohawk racetrack in Campbellville focuses on harness racing alone. Standardbred [harness] racing at Woodbine is conducted from October to May, and then moves to Mohawk during the summer, while thoroughbred racing is generally conducted from April to December,” continued Siscos.
As the largest horse racing organizer in Canada, Woodbine serves the whole of horse racing community. Woodbine provides owners of the horses with suitable facilities, and the backstretch of the Woodbine racetrack offers 2,100 stalls for thoroughbred horses. The facility also serves trainers [300 trainers currently use Woodbine facilities] with the necessary training space for some 1,500 thoroughbred races run at Woodbine each year.
Every Thoroughbred race has its ‘purse’ — the total offering that the competitors divide between themselves. The winner takes 60 per cent, second place receives 20 per cent, third place gets 11 per cent, fourth place receives six per cent and fifth place gets three per cent. “This is where Woodbine brings the public and the horse racing together through wagering. We provide the ‘purse’ for the races; and where betting and wagering generate the funds for the purse, as the track takes a cut from each wager. We offer around nine to ten races per day, four or five days a week, and our thoroughbred purse budget is around $90 million per season. This system plays right into our mandate, where we raise the money to operate our facilities and provide the purses for the races, and we work to increase the quality of our athletes, focusing all attention on the sport. This is the advantage of being a not-for-profit organization.”
The annual staple of Woodbine racing is the Queen’s Plate. Inaugurated with royal blessing in 1860, the Queen’s Plate represents the pinnacle of Canadian racing. Queen Elizabeth visited the race at several occasions in 2010, 1997, 1973, and 1959. Going back in history, King George VI visited the race in 1939 [following the reigning monarchs of England, the race was called the King’s Plate at the time]. To this Siscos said, “Queen’s Plate is the Kentucky Derby of Canada. It is regarded with the highest prestige in the world of horse racing, and the world of sport overall.”
With its inaugural running in 1938 [as The Long Branch Championship], the Canadian International runs in October, and attracts horsemen and fans from around the world. With the purse of $1.5 million, this race is one of the biggest events in Canadian and International horse racing. In standardbred racing, Woodbine offers the Pepsi North America Cup. Staged first in 1984, also with a purse of $1.5 million; it has seen several dramatic finishes, which have turned the event into one of standardbred racing’s finest events.
Besides Canadian racing with its far-reaching reputation, Woodbine Racetrack and Woodbine Entertainment hosted some of the largest events in the thoroughbred racing on the international scale. The track hosted the Arlington Million in 1988 [Introduced in 1981, the Arlington Million was the first thoroughbred race to offer a purse of US $1 million; the race takes place in August, over a distance of 1.25 miles]. “Besides the Arlington Million, the Breeders Cup represents the biggest attraction in international thoroughbred racing, and Woodbine was the first track to host these races outside the United States. It was seen as a widely successful edition of the Breeders’ Cup.”
Food and Beverage
Woodbine and Mohawk also offer some of finest dining in the Greater Toronto Area, offering something for everyone. From Favourites, Woodbine’s main dining room, which offers the best seats in the house while enjoying a full dining experience, to a more casual atmosphere at Mohawk’s Trackside Bar and Patio, where a fan can feel most like being part of the action. Woodbine Catering Sales department is committed to creating exceptional memories for any size group.
Awards & Accolades
As a leader in the horse racing industry, Woodbine received Facility and Customer Excellence Recognition, a Top Choice Award for as Entertainment Complex of the Year for Woodbine Racetrack and WEGZ Stadium Bar, and the Century International Quality ERA Gold Award for QC100 Total Quality Management, for a quality-centered, customer focused and team-driven management to achieve organization’s strategic imperatives through continuous improvement.
Woodbine Entertainment Group continues to represent the pinnacle of the horseracing in Canada and internationally, focusing its corporate social responsibility on continuous improvement of its facilities, increasing the safety of the horse and the rider, and increasing the quality of racing for Canadians and the whole of horseracing industry.