The Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, the statewide organization representing owners and trainers at Philadelphia Park, has endorsed legislation sponsored by Rep. John Taylor to allow slot machines at Pennsylvania's four licensed racetracks.
Salvatore DeBunda, vice president and a board member of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said Taylor's legislation would bring greater economic benefits to all segments of the racing industry than other slot-machine bills that have been introduced in the state.
The Taylor-sponsored legislation would place a 30% tax on the revenues generated by slot machines and dedicate the money taken in by the state to preserving the lottery fund and a new program for security against terrorist attacks.
"It is important to note that Rep. Taylor's bill would divide the remaining proceeds of the slot machines equally between the track owner and the horsemen who put on the show at the racetracks," DeBunda said. "Other bills give as much as $4 to $4.50 to the track operators for every dollar given to the horsemen. That's not right.
"It is the horsemen who spend millions of dollars each year to support Pennsylvania's agricultural economy and contribute the vast majority of open space preserved in Pennsylvania by the racing industry. Purses, the money paid to the horsemen who train and own the racehorses, drive the whole industry."
DeBunda said Taylor's proposal does not provide a new opportunity for Pennsylvanians to engage in slot machine gaming, but instead makes it more convenient. "Every day, thousands of Pennsylvanians are boarding buses and traveling to Delaware, West Virginia, New Jersey, and soon to New York to engage in this form of entertainment," he said.
As other states have augmented purses through revenue from slot machines, Pennsylvania's ranking in purses has slipped from above the national average to 35% below the national average, and 50% below Delaware Park and the Charles Town Races and Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort in West Virginia.
"Without a significant increase in the purse structure here, Pennsylvania racing is doomed," DeBunda said.
Studies have shown that the industry in Pennsylvania generates more than one billion dollars in economic activity each year and provides employment for 35,000 people. The Pennsylvania THA represents more than 4,000 horsemen throughout Pennsylvania.
The other Pennsylvania tracks are Penn National Race Course, a Thoroughbred facility near Harrisburg; and two Standardbred facilities: The Meadows near Pittsburgh, and the Downs at Pocono near Wilkes-Barre.