You can hear the strain in Jim Lawson’s voice as the Woodbine Entertainment CEO struggles to come to grips with what is happening to his industry as the COVID-19 pandemic creates havoc across the world. Read MoreWoodbine CEO desperately worried about the future of the industry — Toronto Sun
You can hear the strain in Jim Lawson’s voice as the Woodbine Entertainment CEO struggles to come to grips with what is happening to his industry as the COVID-19 pandemic creates havoc across the world.
Mohawk Raceway has recently been shut down, putting hundreds of standardbred track workers out of work. And now the thoroughbred season at Woodbine, originally slated to begin on April 18, has been postponed indefinitely, putting even more track workers — many of whom have little means — in a jobless situation. Lawson is worried about the future of his industry if the shutdown and postponement goes on for too long.
“There’s just no money right now and that’s the problem,” Lawson told the Toronto Sun on Wednesday. “We’re working with the government on a relief fund, but we’re putting so many grooms and hot workers and everyone else out of work. And despite the perception that horse owners are wealthy, they really aren’t. There’s a very small handful of owners that are wealthy and the rest of them are hard-working people. And they can’t make this work without any sort of funding. And the longer this goes on, the bigger threat it is to this entire industry.
“Hopefully we can get it under a control a little bit because I don’t think, like a lot of industries, the horse racing industry is going to be able to tolerate (a shut down) for that long,” added Kevin Attard, one of Woodbine’s leading trainers, pointing out that many of the track workers live pay cheque to pay cheque and many of the owners are small-time business people who would probably would walk away from the sport if they face financial insecurity.
“It comes down to feeding your family or feeding your hobby,” Attard. “Right now, you can see the writing on the wall.”