New Pennsy Track Plan: All Slots Profits to Horsemen

The Pennsylvania Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has submitted an application for a license for a Thoroughbred racetrack that would be built in the Lehigh Valley, less than two hours north of the Philadelphia metropolitan area. If approved, daily purses would eventually average $1 million a day under a plan whereby all profits from slot machines would go back to horsemen.

The application was submitted to the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission July 1. Organized under its wholly owned subsidiary, "100% Purses Inc.," the Pennsylvania HBPA intends to construct Freedom Park, which would have a 1 1/8-mile dirt track and an inner turf course on 485 acres in Palmer Township in the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton metro area. The second phase of the project calls for construction of a 400–500 room hotel/conference center.

The track would be located within two hours of Penn National Race Course in Grantville and Philadelphia Park near Philadelphia. The Downs at Pocono, a Standandbred track located near Wilkes-Barre, about 1 1/2 hours north of the Lehigh Valley, has operated an off-track betting parlor near Allentown for more than 10 years.

Organizers of the project said Freedom Park, in anticipation of legislation that would approves slot machines at racetracks in Pennsylvania, "represents the unique opportunity for horsemen, the real shareholders of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred horse racing industry, to own and operate a racetrack where all profits will be reinvested into the purse structure."

Purse enhancements would amount to about $175 million over the first four years of operation, which is a 90% increase in purses above the $200 million required by contract or mandated by law. The application by 100% Purses said the entity intends to offer daily average purses that will, in most cases, double the purses that are currently being paid by racetracks in California and Kentucky.

Freedom Park would offer 100 days of live racing within three years, with daily average purses of $1 million. As additional profits are generated, the meet would be expanded or purses would be increased. There would be no operator profits, according to 100% Purses.

The Pennsylvania HBPA, which represents horsemen at Penn National Race Course, said it embraces the commitment of the Pennsylvania legislature toward improving the quality of live horse racing through the placement of slots at racetracks. Shareholders/horsemen involved with 100% Purses would utilize 64% of net gaming revenue to offer the horsemen and breeders in Pennsylvania an opportunity to participate in a program that would establish Freedom Park as a premier racing facility in the United States, the entity said.

The planned initial investment in Freedom Park exceeds $200 million, and eventually would top $400 million. It is expected to create 800 to 1,000 jobs.