The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition reported Tuesday that slots revenues at Pennsylvania's six racetrack casinos-- also known as Category 1 casinos -- took significant hits for the month of February, dropping by 14.3 percent compared to the same period in 2012. That decrease resulted in a corresponding drop of $3.47 million in funding to the Race Horse Development Fund, which supports live horse racing and breeding in Pennsylvania.
The cumulative decline to the racing fund is $11.16 million or 6.1 percent for the first eight months of the fiscal year-- July 2012 through February 2013. The data was compiled by the Pennsylvania Equine Coalition based on figures compiled by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
"Revenues to the Race Horse Development Fund are down significantly due in large part to increased competition from the gaming industry in neighboring states,” said Pete Peterson, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Equine Coalition. "The revenue drops have already forced three Pennsylvania race tracks to implement across the board purse cuts. Unfortunately, the competition is not going away, so we expect these declines to continue. Looking at revenues over the past few months, it appears the declines are only growing worse.”
Peterson said the drop in revenues underscores the importance of efforts by key legislators to stop the diversion of money from the Race Horse Development Fund to pay for other state budget programs and departments. The Corbett Administration's proposed budget seeks to divert $31,159,000 from the Race Horse Development Fund to the state's General Fund and other budget line items.
If the current rate of decline of 6.1 percent holds steady, the fund will have actual revenues of approximately $261 million this fiscal year. In contrast, the Corbett Administration's budget projections for the current year-- issued in February 2013-- projected the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund would bring in revenues of $289.5 million in the 2012/2013 Fiscal Year. Although the Administration recently revised its budget projections downward to $278.5 million, it appears the fund will bring in $17 million less this year.
"With money going into the Race Horse Development Fund down so much over last year, the continued diversion of funds to support other state budget items would be a double whammy,” said Peterson. "These declines directly impact Pennsylvanians whose jobs rely on the horse racing and breeding industry, including veterinarians, blacksmiths, trainers, breeders, drivers, grooms, and jockeys, as well as farmers who produce feed and hay, and countless small business owners who provide supplies.”
The Race Horse Development Fund enhances live horse racing and breeding programs in the Commonwealth by supplementing purses and enhancing race horse breeding incentives. The fund was a crucial component of Act 71 of 2004, the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act, which legalized slot machine gaming in Pennsylvania in an effort to save the Pennsylvania horse racing and breeding industry.
The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition attributes the continued decline in slots revenues at the state's six racetrack casinos to increased competition from Ohio, New York and Maryland -- as well as increased in-state competition from an additional casino in Valley Forge Pa. (Pennsylvania Equine Coalition)