The expansion of gaming at racetrack casinos doesn't always guarantee more money for purses and breed development programs, horsemen said July 2 during a sobering discussion that showed horse racing's challenge to stay relevant in a revenue-driven environment.
A "benchmark report" on slot machines in Pennsylvania shows a 39.3% increase in purses paid at Thoroughbred and Standardbred racetracks from 2007 to 2008, but double-digit declines in total pari-mutuel handle during the same period.
As hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from slot machines flows to horse racing, there is growing sentiment that perhaps the racing industry is failing to capitalize on the new wealth by solely pumping money into purses and breed development programs.
Total purses earned at Pennsylvania racetracks jumped 162% from 2006 to 2007 because of revenue from on-track slot machines, while the percentage of purses earned from pari-mutuel wagering dropped substantially during the same period, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board's first "benchmark report" on the impact of slots on pari-mutuel wagering.
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."
A Pennsylvania regulator said progress is being made in attempts to educate legislators and make sure horse racing gets its due as gaming parlors continue to open around the state, but much remains to be done.
With Philadelphia Park about ready to open its slot-machine parlor, gaming at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, located in a much smaller market, has exceeded expectations after the first two weeks of operation.