Pennsylvania Slots Produce $200M for Purses

Slots at tracks in Pennsylvania produced more than $200 million for racing in 2008.

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.

The statistics, released April 29, also indicate that on-track live handle increased 6.7%, and gross revenue from slots at tracks was 11.1% higher on live racing days. There are six tracks with slots in the Keystone State, three for Thoroughbred racing and three for harness racing.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board report, second of its kind, compares figures from 2006 and 2008 as well. The first gaming machines began operating in the fall of 2006.

“With three years worth of data, some trends are starting to emerge, including the fact that the horse and harness racing facilities are enjoying an increase in gaming revenue on days when live horse racing is conducted,” PGCB director of racetrack gaming Melinda Tucker said in a statement.

In 2008, average daily gross terminal revenue generated from slots at tracks was $625,598 on non-race days and $695,430 on race days. A study commissioned by Iowa gaming officials showed the same type of increase at Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino.

As for purses earned, the figure—Thoroughbred and harness racing combined—increased almost 40% from $144.3 million to $201.1 million from 2007 to 2008. Of the Thoroughbred tracks, Philadelphia Park Casino & Racetrack generated $41 million for the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund; Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, $21 million; and Presque Isle Downs & Casino, $20 million.

Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack led the harness tracks with $39 million in funds for racing programs, followed by The Meadows Racetrack & Casino at $29 million, and Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs at $22 million.

Mt. Airy resort, a slots casino in the Pocono Mountains, produced $21 million for horse racing in the state. Non-racing slots facilities contribute 6% of gross terminal revenue by law.

Total Thoroughbred handle, which includes imported signals, dropped 11.3% from $741.9 million in 2007 to $657.9 million in 2008. From 2006 to 2008, it dropped 15.3%. Total harness handle dropped 12% from 2007 to 2008, and 15.2% from 2006 to 2008.

Total race days in Pennsylvania increased by 11.8% from 838 in 2007 to 937 in 2008.

Gary Sojka, a PGCB member and agriculturalist, said the benchmark report helps gauge the progress of the 2004 law that authorized slots in Pennsylvania. “The improvement of our racing industry, spurred by the tremendous success of legalized slots gaming, has a direct impact on farmland preservation and a beneficial trickle-down on the entire agricultural community in the commonwealth,” he said.