Horsemen Link Table Games License, Repairs

A table games license has been approved in Pennsylvania, but not without conflict.

Two Pennsylvania racetracks—Philadelphia Park Casino & Racetrack and Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs—are the first to be licensed to add table games at casinos with slot machines.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approved the licenses March 16. Both facilities expect to have table games such as blackjack and craps ready by mid-2010.

Purses and breed development programs get no revenue from table games in Pennsylvania, but are funded by slots revenue. Last year, the Pennsylvania legislature took action that reduces that share by about 17% for the next four years.

In a release, PGCP chairman Greg Fajt said approval is just one step in the process of getting table games up and running. Casinos, he said, must still meet obligations under internal controls, gain approval of staffing levels and gaming floor plans, and satisfy PGCB regulations and any conditions that may be placed on the table games certificate.

It wasn’t immediately known if those “conditions” involve racing operations at the facilities. The table games law mandates racetrack casinos regularly report on racing improvements as well as marketing and promotional plans to generate interest in racing.

During a March 10 public hearing on the application by PARX Casino at Philly Park, Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission chair Dr. Corinne Sweeney cited provisions in the new law. Sweeney said the 2010 law mandates racetracks to submit annual reports and to indicate measures that will be taken to enhance live racing.

Pennsylvania has three Thoroughbred tracks and three Standardbred tracks, which are called “Category One” facilities.

“We expect the Category Ones to put their best foot forward to demonstrate in concrete ways their commitment to live racing and breeding in Pennsylvania,” Sweeney said in her comments. “We expect the Category One license-holders to provide to us what steps they plan to employ to increase the handle and attendance at their respective racetrack in the ensuing year.”

She also said tracks are obligated to have safe and secure barn areas.

At that same meeting, members of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which represents horsemen at Philly Park, described what they called “deplorable conditions,” including buildings that are near collapse, according to the Bucks County, Pa., Courier-Times. The newspaper reported the Pennsylvania THA said it would oppose the table games license until improvements are made.

Greenwood Racing, which owns the track, has said it would spend about $25 million on facility improvements. Track officials during the hearing blamed horsemen, environmental regulations, and poor weather for delays, the newspaper reported.

Sources said that on March 14, part of the paddock roof adjacent the grandstand at Philly Park blew off during a rain storm. Track officials have said they plan to remodel the grandstand now that all the slot machines have been moved to PARX, which is a separate building on the property.