The change in Ontario’s betting rules that took place last spring has been widely seen as a liberalization, opening up betting opportunities that had not been available before. But if you were a keen follower of horse racing, the change actually overturned things in a way few people realized at the time. And since April 2022, Ontarians have not had the opportunity to bet online on racing at the sportsbooks that have opened in the province. There is, though, apparently some hope that this could change in the New Year, bringing Canadian races to providers such as Ladbrokes horse racing. The upshot of this could be a major shot in the arm for the industry in Canada.

It seems a little bizarre on the face of it that betting on horse races has been excluded from online sportsbooks up to this point. Racing is, after all, a sport, and locals can bet on football, tennis and hockey without issue. The difficulty of betting on horse racing mirrors the provision of sports betting in New York, where the first year of action has been an undoubted success, but has not allowed for sportsbooks to include racing. With the horse training industry in Canada depending so heavily on betting, horse racing’s inclusion in Ontario sportsbooks could make a huge difference. So what are the elements we need to look out for?

The people behind the forthcoming change

The idea for horse racing to be included in Ontarian sportsbooks is the brainchild of Woodbine Entertainment Group, which runs pari-mutuel betting in Canada and is by far the largest professional horse racing business in the country. They are working on a means to integrate their racing odds into the existing sportsbooks that currently operate in the province. This would allow Woodbine to offer odds on racing that takes place in Canada, and offer it to the entire Ontarian sports betting industry.

What makes Woodbine’s claims credible?

At present, Woodbine offers betting at racetracks and OTB facilities, as well as running two parimutuel betting sites and apps: HPIBet and Dark Horse Bets. These sites and the related apps do offer odds on horse racing, but only on races that take place overseas. Woodbine has been working in close consultation with iGaming Ontario and the Canadian Parimutuel Agency (CPMA) to ensure that whenever it comes to deliver its horse racing odds to the Canadian industry, it will be done in a way which will cross no legal boundaries nor have unintended consequences. So, presumably, when the idea comes to fruition, it won’t have to clear any legal hurdles, because they will already have been “priced in”.

When might this be a reality?

The hope is that things will be ironed out soon. Woodbine’s original intent was to deliver by the end of the year, but time is running out for the build to be finished, tested and licensed, let alone to go live in 2022. Conservatively, the expectation is that there could be legal horse betting through Canadian sportsbooks by the time of the 2023 Kentucky Derby, which is in early May. With any luck, it will be with plenty of time to spare.