Pennsylvania Horsemen React to Gaming Bill

Group opposes addition of slots at other facilities.

The Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association responded May 14 to legislation introduced in the state that would permit video lottery terminals at additional venues. The state’s racing purses have grown considerably in the past few years with revenue from slots at the racetracks.

"Legislation to expand video lottery machines to bars, restaurants, and social clubs would likely triple the number of current gaming machines in operation in Pennsylvania and double the number of projected machines, diluting the market and reducing revenues to existing machines and casinos," Sal DeBunda, vice president and general counsel of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said in a release. "That reduction in revenues will threaten the health of the horse racing industry and the progress we have made since the first casino opened 2 1/2 years ago.

"By siphoning revenues away from existing casinos and the dedicated funding to our industry that those revenues represent, video lottery terminals will adversely impact our purses, our breeding incentives, our ability to attract new people to the industry, funding for horse rescue programs, and our funding of health and pension benefits for our members."  

DeBunda testified May 14 before the House Gaming Oversight Committee at a hearing in Kutztown, Pa. In the release, DeBunda cited the following achievements since passage of the act that permitted the slot machines at racetracks:

* Improved purses have brought renewed interest from owners and trainers to race in Pennsylvania, resulting in higher quality horses racing in the state, larger fields, improved competition and a better product for race fans. In addition, owners and trainers are buying more pasture land, renovating their stables, purchasing new equipment, hiring additional help, and purchasing additional horses.

* Major incentives provided to owners and breeders of Thoroughbreds and Standardbred has caused a resurgence in Pennsylvania horse breeding. In 2008, Pennsylvania saw a 30% increase in the number of mares bred, compared to a national decline of 7.7% during the same period.

* Philadelphia Park is investing $25 to $30 million in backside improvements, including 36 new barns with improved air circulation, structural integrity, and improved living conditions. The dorms that house caretakers are being refurbished with new air conditioning units and windows, and the grandstand is being refurbished.

* The PTHA last year launched the nation’s first horse rescue program, Turning for Home. Under the program, Turning for Home takes retired or injured horses and, through partnerships with non-profit horse retirement programs, finds new careers for them as pleasure, show, or riding horses.