Breeds See Breeding Splits Differently in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association has put its support behind legislation that would give horsemen 25% of gross revenue from racetrack slot machines. Meanwhile, a prominent Standardbred breeder told members of a Senate Finance Committee May 6 breeders won't receive enough revenue under splits contained in two slots bills that have been introduced.

The PHBA supports a bill sponsored by Rep. William DeWeese that would give 25% of gross slots revenue to horsemen (20% for purses, 4% for breed development, and 1% for backstretch health insurance and pension plans). Legislation sponsored by Sen. Robert Tomlinson gives 15% of gross revenue to purses and 1% to breed development.

In a letter to PHBA members, president Ray Hamm said the splits in the DeWeese legislation "would allow current breeder and stallion award levels to be maintained, as well as fund a lucrative schedule of Pennsylvania-bred stakes and overnight races and the ongoing Pennsylvania-bred owner bonus program."

The letter said both Thoroughbred and Standardbred breeders worked on the DeWeese bill. The Standardbred breeding industry is said to support racetrack slots, though an attempt is being made to shift more money to specific breed-development programs.

"We are asking for modest increases in bills we would otherwise support--an increase of 2.5% in the Tomlinson bill, the leading Republican Senate bill," Max Hempt, a leading breeder of harness horses, told the Senate committee. "And we simply want to move a few percentage points from one column to another in the DeWeese bill."

Hempt said the goal of current legislation is to advance gambling interests.

"Why not just drop the fantasy that the goal here is to boost Pennsylvania's horse racing and related agriculture business?" Hempt told the committee, according to prepared release from Hershey Philbin Associates. "These bills simply give away slot-machine gambling licenses to track and gambling interests free, and ignore the needs of folks who made quality horse racing happen in this state in the last century--the horse breeders of Pennsylvania."

The release called Hempt a spokesman for the Standardbred Breeders Association of Pennsylvania, but industry officials said the organization supports racetrack slots. The issue apparently isn't the 25% split for horsemen in the DeWeese bill, but rather how the Standardbred industry would use revenue for breed development.

While the Thoroughbred industry's focus is on breeder awards, stallion awards, and owner bonuses and purse supplements, the Standardbred program's centerpiece is a series of sires stakes for 2- and 3-year-olds at the state's two harness tracks.