Pennsy Slots Bill: Horsemen Get 25% of Gross Revenue

A Pennsylvania lawmaker April 15 introduced legislation that would give horsemen 25% of gross revenue from racetrack slot machines. The bill also includes provisions for health benefits and live-racing protection.

Rep. William DeWeese, the Democratic Minority Leader from western Pennsylvania, proposes that up to 3,000 slot machines be located at each of the state's licensed tracks. The state would get 35% of gross revenue and track operators 40%.

Of the horsemen's share, 20% of gross revenue would go to purses, 4% to breed development programs and awards, and 1% to horsemen's health and pension programs. The bill also includes language to protect live racing: No track can offer gaming without it.

"It's landmark legislation," said Mike Ballezzi, executive director of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association based at Philadelphia Park. "(The revenue splits for horsemen) would be the largest in the country. A big element is that it adopts our language to protect live racing."

A bill introduced earlier this year by Rep. Robert Tomlinson called for 15% of gross revenue to go to purses and 1% to breed development. Some horsemen's groups in the state weren't satisfied, and the PTHA in particular expressed dismay it didn't contain language to protect live racing should slot machines go online.

Track operators support the Tomlinson bill, which would give them 54% of gross revenue. The state share varies little between the two pieces of legislation, though the DeWeese bill would give the Pennsylvania State Lottery about $29.5 million to oversee racetrack slots operations.

In a statement, DeWeese said about $585 million would go to a new Education Equity 501 Trust Fund to improve public education.

"Too many of Pennsylvania's public schools have been starved into mediocrity as a direct result of the state's failure to pay its fair share of education costs," DeWeese said. "It's time for the state to relieve local property owners and take some responsibility for educating our young people."