PA Gaming Board Supports Equine Welfare

Though it has no regulatory oversight of equine health and safety, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has adopted a resolution saying it supports the state’s efforts to “invest in horse health and welfare.”

The PGCB oversees slot machines and electronic table games at racetrack and non-track locations in the state. Though horse racing is regulated by the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission and Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission, the PGCB has taken a more active role on the racing side.

Melinda Tucker, director of racetrack gaming for the PGCB, said the board was involved in hosting the Racetrack Gaming Expo at the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg. The event featured displays on equine health issues to facilitate discussion on finding money for continued research and other programs.

In addition, the board remains in contact with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture on the marketing of the horse industry in the state.

The May 15 resolution came less than two weeks after the filly Eight Belles broke down and was euthanized after running second in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) at Churchill Downs. The incident put horse racing under a microscope; in the latest development, a congressional subcommittee said it plans to hold a hearing on equine health, medication use, and breeding practices in June.

“I think the resolution speaks for itself in terms of what our limitations are, but the board wanted to go on record that it will help in any way it can--even if it’s just to keep a dialogue going right now,” Tucker said May 27.
 
The resolution says “catastrophic injuries on the national stage” have put more attention on the “need for comprehensive examination of every facet of equine health, ranging from breeding practices to medication.” It notes that given racetracks’ annual economic impact of hundreds of millions of dollars, “funding for horse health and welfare is a worthwhile investment in the future of an important industry.”

The PGCB notes Pennsylvania is home to “outstanding equine researchers and facilities,” and supports efforts to invest in horse health and welfare to “prevent and manage life-threatening athletic injuries, prevent economic loss, ensure the integrity of racing, improve the health of the industry, increase the longevity of competing and breeding horses, and maintain the strength of the gene pool.”

The Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act of 2004 authorized slots at racetracks and outlines where the revenue goes. A percentage of racing’s share of revenue is used for health and welfare programs for horsemen and jockeys.

The United States House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection has requested information from the horseracing industry by June 2 as it prepares to schedule its hearing in Washington, D.C. In a May 22 letter to the Association of Racing Commissioners International, subcommittee members touched on the relationship between gaming and racing.

“In states where a portion of slots revenues are required to fund breeding initiatives, what are the regulations, if any, that state authorities impose on breeding operations that receive this subsidy to ensure that Thoroughbreds are biologically engineered to be durable and sound?” the letter asks.

In jurisdictions with racetrack gaming, almost all of the racing industry's share of revenue goes to tracks, purses, and awards for breeders.

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