Slots: $17.5M for Pennsylvania Purses in Less Than Three Months

From Jan. 1 through mid-March, slot machines at four racetracks in Pennsylvania had taken in $1.57 billion in bets and produced roughly $17.5 million for purses and breed development for horse racing based on Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board statistics.

The year-to-date leader was Philadelphia Park Casino & Racetrack, which opened last December, with $632 million in bets. Harrah’s Chester Downs, a harness facility, was next in line at $449 million, but it opened in late January. Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, another harness track that opened last fall, had $352 million in gross slots wagers. Finally Presque Isle Downs, which opened March 1 for gaming only, was at $141.9 million after only three weeks.

Under the state’s Race Horse Development and Gaming Act, 12% of adjusted gross revenue from slots at racetracks goes toward purses and breed development programs for Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing. Based on that percentage and total gross terminal revenue of $145.8 million, more than $17.5 million was generated so far this year.

Under the formula, Philly Park produced about $6.6 million for purses and breed development; Chester Downs, whose live meet doesn’t meet begin until June, about $5.1 million; Pocono Downs, which opens for live racing March 31, about $4.1 million; and Presque Isle, where live Thoroughbred racing will debut Sept. 1, about $1.58 million.

The numbers show the slots dynamic of haves and have-nots--just in Pennsylvania. For instance, Pocono Downs, which opened for harness racing in the 1960s, will offer an all-time-high $100,000 a day in purses for its upcoming meet. The minimum purse on the first condition sheet is $4,000 for $5,000 claimers; the highest purse is $20,000 for open-class events.

Meanwhile, at Penn National Race Course, Thoroughbreds for the first 25 racing days of this year competed for daily average purses of $71,000. Penn National is licensed for slots, but owner Penn National Gaming Inc. opted to build a new, integrated racing and gaming facility that won’t open until early 2008 rather than operate a temporary slots facility.

When Penn National slots are operational, purses are expected to approach $200,000 a day under a year-round racing schedule.

The racetrack operators, which keep 45% of adjusted gross revenue from slots, collected the following from Jan. 1 through mid-March: Philly Park ($24.9 million), Chester Downs ($23.5 million), Pocono Downs ($18.9 million), and Presque Isle ($7.2 million).