(Woodbine Entertainment hosted a Stronger Together event via livestream on Wednesday (May 19) which was not open to media where CEO Jim Lawson spoke about the current state of racing in the province and development and future of the Woodbine property in Etobicoke.)

Standardbred Canada had the following story on the meeting:

At the start of the session, Lawson provided an update on the state of racing in the province, which has been shut down since April due to a spike in coronavirus cases. The stay-at-home order set to expire on April 28 was then extended through June 2 Woodbine Entertainment, said Lawson, has been communicating with the local administrations to try and bring racing back as soon as possible.

“We continue to be concerned and frustrated,” Lawson said of the continued shutdown. “We’ve had very good and constructive conversations with Toronto Public Health – they’ve been great. The premier’s office have been supportive and great. But there is, seemingly, a very difficult hurdle with the Provincial Ministry of Health, and quite frankly I just don’t understand it. This is not from a lack of trying. I know people see what goes on on social media, but that’s a small portion of what’s going on in the background. We delivered [the Ministry of Health] another extensive package last week, and we’ve had no dialogue whatsoever. It’s been extremely frustrating and I’m growing increasingly concerned that they just don’t get it or they don’t care to get it – the risk profile for racing. As I’ve said, the risk profile between training, which they do permit, and racing, which they don’t permit; and I continue to be baffled by that distinction, as does everyone in the industry.

“I know people are frustrated,” Lawson also said. “But it’s not from a lack of trying and not from a lack of talking to the right people, but seemingly a Ministry of Health that is not working with us and not caring to work with us. We’re trying to change that, and we need to change that quickly. As these restrictions get eased, we need to make sure horse racing is in the mix. So I’m expecting and hoping that when people can get out and golf – which I hope that they can do – that we can get out and race. That’s our position, and we are pushing that hard. And by all means, people need to join into this battle.”

Lawson then began to talk about Woodbine’s plans for developing its large property into an arena with a goal of turning horse racing into a self-sustaining industry.

“We’re sitting on the largest parcel of undeveloped land in the Greater Toronto Area – almost 700 acres of land,” Lawson said. “Certainly there’s been a catalyst that has helped, which is the casino expansion and the two hotels and the music center that’s coming. What that has afforded us the opportunity to do in the first instance is to make an argument that this is an area that’s growing. As many of you have seen, the area of Woodbine is larger than all of Downtown Toronto combined. And it’s an opportunity that is presenting itself particularly with respect to mass transit, and the mass transit argument ties directly into the casino expansion and the music center and the hotels and, of course, the Woodbine Racetrack sitting in the center of it.

Read more here.