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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sorry Charlie

The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition is sending out a warning that horse racing in the Keystone State is being endangered as the result of slot revenues decreasing, primarily due to non-racino casinos opening up in Pennsylvania.  In Pennsylvania, the racing industry benefits only from slot play at racinos; gambling at stand alone casinos don't benefit horse racing.

The Coalition is sounding the alarm as the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund  (PRHDF) took in $6.36 million less in the past six months.  With the PRHDF being used to fund purses, sires stakes, and breeder awards, some belt tightening will be required and it can get worse unless there is an increase in wagering at the racinos.  With Ohio legalizing slot machines and tracks being relocated closer to the Ohio/Pennsylvania border it is likely receipts will continue to decline.

Pardon me for not being sympathetic to the Coalition's concern.  Yes, the Equine Coalition is undoubtedly raising the alarm not only to stop the state from continuing to raid the PRHDF for other programs, but it irks me that once again the racing industry seemingly is depending on the government to save them without doing anything to save themselves.

Where are the bold changes in Pennsylvania racing?  True there has been marketing of the sport in an attempt to attract a younger demographic but how successful are these attempts going to be if you are selling the same old (expensive) product which the public has been rejecting?   Have there been requests to the state to change rules to make racing more competitive against other forms of gaming?  Attempts to introduce exchange wagering or new wager types?  Other actions to change the product? 

Have you read anything in the industry press about the bold initiatives Pennsylvania racing has taken to attract new gamblers, besides sponsoring PA Harness Week?  I doubt it. All I see is a coalition of horse racing-related interests with their hands out looking for help.  When I see real attempts made to compete in a competitive gaming market then I will be sympathetic.  Until then, Sorry Charlie.


Anonymous said...


The Governor is wrong to take money promised to horse racing and put it in the general Pennsylvania budget. Having said that, PA racing is better off than any other state.

Who envisioned racing would get so much money from slots that tracks could offer $75,000 for a weekly Open, average drivers would earn $50,000 in commissions and bottom claimers would make 20,000, $30,000or more in a year?

I understand why horse people are complaining about the governor now, but it's difficult to sympathize. Many went from very little income to earning more than they ever imagined while not much has been done for what left of the betting customer.

It was a legislative mistake to send a percentage of slots money to racing without capping the actual yearly dollar amount. The law will probably be changed some day.

Anonymous said...

I think the horsemen and the breeders in Pennsylvania would agree that more needs to be done to attract new fans to the tracks. The challenge they face is that the track oeprators are not putting money into advertising or marketing. And the horsemen's groups themselves cannot do it because the funds they receive in to the Race Horse Development Fund are restricted -- they can only be used for purses and breeders incentives. The challenge facing the horsemen and beeders is promting the sport with little to no money availabel to them to do so becuase of the restrictionson the money they receive and a lack of interest from the racetrack oeprators themselves.

Pacingguy said...

I would agree with your position regarding Harrah's, they have gone on record saying they would love to get rid of racing. I can't speak about the operators of the Meadows. With regards to Mohegan Sun, they have shown they are supportive of racing and have worked with the horsemen on several endeavors.

You are right that the legislation doesn't allow the purse account to be used for marketing but there is nothing to keep the horsemen from setting up a check off system where a certain percentage of their winnings could be 'donated' to a fun for such purposes, nor do you see the horsemen petitioning the state to change the law so they can take some of that money for business development.