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Woodbine Entertainment Wastes No Time to Find Next CEO

This week, Ontario’s leading operator for horse racing, Woodbine Entertainment informed that it has already found a successor to its departing CEO, Jim Lawson. After the long-term servant to the group leaves in the fall of 2023, the position will be assumed by Michael Copeland. Currently, he operates as the company’s Chief Commercial Officer.

Woodbine Entertainment is a prominent operator of thoroughbred and standardbred tracks in North America. It manages two renowned racetracks, namely Woodbine Racetrack and Woodbine Mohawk Park. Last year, the organization achieved remarkable success, accumulating gross wagering revenues exceeding $1 billion through a combination of physical and online platforms. Now, Copeland will be tasked with leading the group forward.

Board Makes Unanimous Decision

In a recent meeting, the horse racing operator’s Board of Directors voted unanimously in favour of promoting Mr. Copeland as its next CEO. He will take over the position effective from October 1, 2023. Meanwhile, current CEO Mr. Lawson will remain with the company but he will become Executive Chair of the operator’s Board of Directors.

In the company’s statement, Mr. Lawson noted that the search for his heir was quite thorough but the board kept coming back to Mr. Copeland which was understandable. The current CEO praised his successor for being a renowned senior sports executive and business leader in the horse racing industry who has everything needed to continue the group’s growth trajectory.

Mr. Copeland joined the operator in 2021 after previously serving as President/CEO of both the CFL and the Toronto Argonauts. He also started his own consulting business for the problems of growth and transformation in sports and entertainment. The new CEO also boasts a law degree from the University of Western Ontario and an MBA from Western’s Ivey School of Business.

In addition to the announcement of its next CEO, the organization also reported that industry executive Bill Ford will become Chief Racing Officer as well as General Counsel for the horse racing operator. Mr. Ford has been part of the organization as an executive since 2011, after previously serving as general counsel and secretary for Magna Entertainment from 2003 to 2010.

Recent Operational Highlights

A week ago, Woodbine Entertainment also announced the addition of the highly popular Swinger/Omni wager to its Woodbine Racetrack and Woodbine Mohawk Park betting menus. The new vertical debuted on June 1, 2023. This option requires horseplayers to select two of the top three finishers in a race. Bets start at CA$1 while the takeout is 18%.

In addition to that, the operator is also working on implementing sports wagering on horse races into Ontario’s private sportsbook apps. This has been a highly sought-after change, as players in the province currently have limited options. HPIbet and Dark Horse Bets are two available platforms for online wagers, with the operator aiming to have the new vertical on sportsbooks by the end of the year.

Source: Ralph, Dan “Michael Copeland to succeed Jim Lawson as CEO of Woodbine EntertainmentToronto Star, June 6, 2023

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Yolina has followed closely the latest development on the Canadian gaming scene over the past years, monitoring the land-based, lottery, and online offerings up for grabs. The dynamic nature of the local lottery and casino fields, as well as the opportunities lying ahead of Canada fire her enthusiasm for what is to come. A sports betting enthusiast, in her spare time Yolina could be found in her natural habitat – turning the pages of biographies and catching up on the latest stand-up comedy podcasts.