The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition reported Monday that funds generated from slot machine gaming to the Race Horse Development Funddecreased by 6.19 percent or $1.33 million for the month of January compared to January 2012. The cumulative decline for the first seven months of the fiscal year--June 2012 through January 2013--is $7.69 million or 4.83 percent.
Funding for the Race Horse Development Fund is used to enhance live horse racing and breeding programs in the Commonwealth by supplementing purses and enhancing race horse breeding incentives. The RHDF 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.
Funding for the Race Horse Development Fund is based solely on gross terminal revenues of the state's Category 1 casinos--a designation given to casinos which host equine racing. Each of the Category 1 casinos saw decreases in gross terminal revenues for the month of January that exceeded the state's average decline of 1.19 percent for all casinos. As a result, the decline to the Race Horse Development fund is more than five times the rate of decline in overall gross terminal revenues.
"This decline is a direct result of the increased competition facing Pennsylvania's racetrack casinos as a result of the opening of casinos in the neighboring states of Ohio, New York and Maryland--as well as an additional casino in Valley Forge, Pa.,” said Pete Peterson, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Equine Coalition. "These continued declines will impact thousands of Pennsylvanians involved in the racing and breeding industry, including veterinarians, blacksmiths, trainers, breeders, drivers, grooms,jockeys, farmers who produce feed, and small businesses that provide supplies and equipment.”
Peterson noted that last week, the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association announced that it was forced to implement a 10 percent decrease in purses at The Meadows Racetrack and Casino--located just outside Washington, Pa.--effective Feb. 1. The decrease was necessary due to declines in funding for the Race Horse Development Fund, as well as the diversion of funds to other government programs. Other tracks in Pennsylvania were expected to implement similar changes to their purse structures as well.
Peterson said the continued erosion of funding due to increased competition underscores the need for the state to fully fund the RHDF. Over the course of the past four years, the legislature has diverted more than $200 million in funding from the RHDF to the state's General Fund and an additional $5 million this year to fund the state's county fairs and farm shows.
"As a result of Act 71, horse racing and breeding have been a major growth sector in Pennsylvania's economy, prompting horse owners and breeders to invest tens of millions of dollars in the state,” said Peterson, who noted that according to the Department of Agriculture, the overall value of the equine industry has increased by more than 380 percent to $3 billion with employment more than tripling from 13,870 to more than 41,100. "In order to sustain this economic impact-- and encourage continued investment in Pennsylvania--policymakers need to ensure the Race Horse Development Fund is fully funded in the upcoming budget.”
With $151.6 million collected during the first seven months of the fiscal year, funding to the Race Horse Development Fund is running far below the Corbett Administration's budget projections--issued last February--of $287.8 million in the 2012/2013 fiscal year.
The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition is a statewide group representing more than 10,000 owners and trainers of the horse racing industry in Pennsylvania. Members of the coalition include the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen's Association, the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, the Standardbred Breeders Association of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association, and the Pennsylvania Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association. (Pennsylvania Equine Coalition)