Report Reflects Slots Impact on PA Racing

Purse revenue in Pennsylvania declined from 2009 to 2010, according to a report.

Purse revenue earned from pari-mutuel handle and racetrack slot machines dropped in 2010, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s “benchmark report” on racetrack casinos in the state.

Purses earned from slots at all casinos in the state totaled $159,116,425, down 15.6% from $188,565,798 in 2009. Purses earned from handle last year totaled $37,332,838, down 10.8% from 2009, according to the PGCB report.

The decline in slots revenue for purses is the result of legislative changes that reduced the percentage the racing and breeding industry receives from gaming. The Race Horse Development Fund generally gets 12% of the revenue.

Gross slots revenue has continued to grow since 2006, when the first racetrack casinos opened. In 2010 it totaled $2.27 billion, up from $1.96 billion in 2009.

Race Horse Development Fund distributions in 2010 totaled $269.4 million, but $68.8 million went to the state’s general fund to help cover a budget deficit. Along with purses earned, $16.2 million went to Thoroughbred breed development; $15.2 million to Standardbred breed development; and $12.1 million to health and pension benefits for horsemen.

Racing doesn’t receive revenue from table games at the state’s casinos as it does in neighboring Delaware and West Virginia.

On a positive note the amount of money bet on Pennsylvania racing out of state continues to grow. The PGCB report shows that $660,679,070 was wagered on Pennsylvania racing at out-of-state locations, up 2.57% from $644,087,594 in 2009 and a jump of 45% from 2006.

Handle on the product has grown because of improved quality and despite the highest pari-mutuel takeout rates in the U.S. on certain exotic wagers. Revenue from export handle, however, is much lower than that from live ontrack handle.

Ontrack handle on live racing was down 9.2% from $44,660,194 in 2009 to $40,529,217 last year, according to the report.

In a statement, PGCB chairman Greg Fajt said the report and statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture show slots revenue has positively impacted farmland preservation and agribusiness.

“There continues to be no doubt that the inclusion of slot machine gaming at our six racetrack facilities is having a very positive effect on both the horse racing industry and agriculture,” Fajt said. “Not to be lost is also the creation of new jobs related to the horse racing industry, and the improvement of living and working conditions of racetrack workers.”

Figures released by the Department of Agriculture in late 2010 showed a 300% increase in equine industry jobs from the start of the decade to 2008.

As for 2010 casino play, Parx Racing in the suburbs northeast of Philadelphia led the way with 17.5% of total gross terminal revenue in the state. Another Philly-area casino, Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack, was next at 13%, followed by Sands Casino in Bethlehem in the Lehigh Valley (11.38%) and Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course near Harrisburg (11.14%).