Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) announced Wednesday that more than 100 jobs will be slashed at two of its racetracks – including Etobicoke’s Woodbine – to make up for revenues lost as a result of the Slots-at-Racetracks termination.
In total – including changes implemented in late 2012 – 109 salaried positions, plus a “significant” number of hourly positions will be impacted at Woodbine and at Mohawk Racetrack in Milton. Those jobs impacted, fall at all levels of the organization – “from the executive offices to frontline employees.”
“Today is a very difficult day for Woodbine Entertainment Group,” WEG’s President and CEO Nick Eaves said in a statement released Wednesday. “The people we are saying goodbye to have helped build WEG into a world-class horse racing and entertainment company. As we confront these difficult but necessary changes to our company, we remain committed to delivering a superior experience to our customers and demonstrating vital leadership to the Ontario horse racing industry to ensure its long-term sustainability.”
Citing a significant drop in revenues as a result of the loss of the Slots-at-Racetracks program – a partnership that directed $345 million in slots revenues to the horse-racing industry each year until its termination on March 31 – WEG officials said not even recently announced transitional agreements with the provincial government and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) were enough to fill that void.
As a result, the company said it has had to take steps to reduce costs and achieve efficiencies through the implementation of a new operating model.
In addition to the layoffs, that new operating model will also involve the conversion of some jobs to seasonal work, a reduction in the amount of hourly work available, a reduced race schedule, and a downsizing or amalgamation of some of WEG’s internal operations in order to align with WEG’s “new financial realities.”
Jim Lawson, chairman of WEG, called the planned operational restructuring “absolutely necessary.”
“WEG and its government partners must continue to work together in order to achieve the only sustainable solution – the integration of horse racing into Ontario’s overall gaming strategy, which needs to include expanded gaming, operated by WEG, at Woodbine and Mohawk racetracks,” he said in a statement.
Back on March 13, 2012, following the OLG’s decision to end the Slots-at-Racetracks, Eaves expressed WEG’s interest in hosting a casino at its Woodbine location as a possible solution.
“WEG has long held the position that Woodbine is the logical location for a casino in the Greater Toronto Area,” he said in a statement. “Clearly there is significant gaming customer interest at Woodbine Racetrack, with over six million visitors annually.”