Horsemen, Breeders: Not All Support Pennsylvania Bill

Organizations that represent Thoroughbred horsemen in Pennsylvania have voiced opposition to racetrack gaming legislation because the return to purses and breed development is insufficient in their view.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Robert Tomlinson, awards 15% of gross revenue from slots to purses, and 1% to breed development. The splits pertain to Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing.

The Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, which represents horsemen at Philadelphia Park, would like 25% to 30% of gross revenue from slot machines. In addition, the organization said the legislation doesn't contain language to protect a live racing agreement now in place and doesn't give money for horsemen's health and pension programs.

Jim Cawley, a spokesman for Tomlinson, told The Blood-Horse the other horsemen's groups in the state support the bill. On March 7, representatives of two groups said they are opposed to the revenue splits.

Todd Mostoller, executive director of the Pennsylvania Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said the organization, which represents horsemen at Penn National Race Course, respects Tomlinson's position but stands by the PA-THA's call for 30% of gross revenue for purses.

"The Pennsylvania HBPA does not support the Tomlinson bill because it does not satisfy the needs of the industry in Pennsylvania," Mostoller said. "We respect Sen. Tomlinson greatly, but there are concerns by horsemen at Penn National. We are unified with the horsemen at Philadelphia Park."

Mark McDermott, executive secretary of the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, said the 1% share in the current legislation would "basically devastate our program. What we're concerned with is what money would go to purses."

In Pennsylvania, the Thoroughbred breeding program is directly tied to purses, so the 1% share of slots revenue wouldn't provide enough money for the program should purses skyrocket as expected. Currently, the program gets 1% of all Thoroughbred handle in the state ($9.2 million in 2002) and pays breeder and stallion incentives, as well as Pennsylvania-bred purse supplements and owner bonuses.

"We believe our program will grow with purses," McDermott said. "We want to be able to continue to pay at the level we're paying now."

Cawley said Tomlinson has studied the issue and believes the bill is "well-rounded and a balanced approach."

Hal Handel, chief executive officer at Philadelphia Park, said the horsemen's share in Tomlinson's bill is an excellent deal when compared with other racing jurisdictions such as Delaware and Ontario, Canada, and on par with splits in West Virginia. He suggested horsemen are being greedy, while horsemen say the racetracks' share--54% of gross revenue--is way out of line.