Pa. race horse fund sees drop in funding

Pa. race horse fund experiences decline

January 11, 2013

The slots were not good to the horse racing industry in Pennsylvania during the first half of the fiscal year.

Funds from slot machines dedicated to the Race Horse Development Fund decreased 4.6 percent for the period of July 1 through Dec. 31, 2012. They totaled $131,419,633.08, a $6.36 million drop from $137,779,854.81 in the July-December period of 2011.

Those figures were reported by the Pennsylvania Equine Coalition, which represents more than 10,000 horse-racing owners and trainers in Pennsylvania.

That was the largest decline since the fund was created in 2004, by Act 71, to enhance horse racing and breeding programs in the state.

PEC spokesman Pete Peterson said decreased funding “will negatively impact purses at the state’s six race tracks and hurt incentives to promote breeding of horses.”

This happened while gross revenue from slot machines rose in Pennsylvania in 2012 to $2.5 billion from $2.4 billion in 2011. Revenue has increased every year since the first casino opened in 2006.

The gross slots revenue went up slightly at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino in 2012, to $248,935,293.83. That was a 0.16 percent hike from $248,535,340 in 2011.

Peterson, however, said the state has diverted “more than $200 million from the Racehorse Development Fund to augment the General Fund” over the past four years. He also said the opening of casinos in Ohio, New York and Maryland has reduced slots play at Pennsylvania casinos that also have horse racing.

The Governor’s Executive Budget last February projected the racehorse fund to collect $287.8 million for the 2012-13 fiscal year, making that midpoint figure of $131.4 million well below projections.

Tim Hankins, executive director of the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association, believes his track can help boost that fund. He is encouraged that the racing end of the Meadows operation experienced a 15 percent increase in all-sources handle for 2012, and is excited about events planned at the track and casino – some on Saturday nights – during the Meadows’ 50th anniversary year.

“Our goal is to get $1 million per race card in pari-mutuels. We want to become a major player in the simulcast atmosphere.”

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won seven individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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