Pennsylvania’s Horse Racing Riding on the Coattails of Slots

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Betting on horses in the state of Pennsylvania has been around for decades. To help save the struggling industry due to outside competition from neighboring states, the state moved forward with casino gambling in all of its horse racing venues over a decade ago, but the downward situation still persists. In a recent article by Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Wood reposted on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette earlier this month, it was reported that Pennsylvania diverted $239 million into its horse racing in dustry in 2017. This brings the total amount of money used to help the various race tracks across the Commonwealth to $2.6 billion over the past 10 years. The funds used to create this burgeoning bankroll came from the coffers of the Pennsylvania casino industry. More specifically, from the large amount of revenue generated by people playing slot machines as opposed to money generated by horse racing betting.  SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE

The report states that Pennsylvania took in $2.34 billion in slot machine revenue in 2017. As part of state law concerning how its real money gambling proceeds will be divided, the horse racing industry has been earmarked to receive over 10 percent of those funds into the Race Horse Development Fund. Most of the money generated by the 12 Pennsylvania casinos is used to provide relief to the state’s property owners in the form of lower taxes.

The horse racing betting industry does not see itself as a charity that is funded solely as a subsidy from these taxpayer funds. In a letter from the Pennsylvania Equine Coalition to PA state legislators last July, it was stated t hat the fund was an “obligation” that casino operators voluntarily agreed to pay “to offset the negative impact that the legalization of slot machines would have on live racing and the state’s agricultural industry.”The Race Horse Development Fund was created in 2006 to help build the horse breeding industry as it pertained to horse racing. This was all part of the brokered deal among legislators to bring casino gambling to the state.

According to this report, that has not been the case when it comes to developing the thoroughbred horse racing industry. Going back to 2013, it was noted that 1,365 thoroughbred fouls were born. That number dropped dramatically to 555 in 2016 according to a 2017 Racetrack Casino Benchmark Report that was recently published by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

The issue has now been raised about the amount of funds still going to the state’s horse racing industry in light of such poor results. Wealthy horse owners and racehorse breeders remain the biggest benefactors with 90 percent of the money used to subsidize the large prize money purses paid out at the trac ks for major graded stakes events.The $239 million that went into last year’s fund was larger than the budgets for the Department of Agriculture ($143 million) and the Department of Health ($215 million). The PA State Police had a slightly larger budget of $257 million according to this report.

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