Pennsy Bill: 21.5% of Slots Revenue for Purses

Purse accounts at Pennsylvania racetracks would earn 21.5% of gross revenue from track-based slot machines under legislation introduced Feb. 26 by Sen. Robert Tomlinson, whose district includes Philadelphia Park.

The bill calls for 3,000 devices at the state's five licensed tracks: Philadelphia Park, Penn National Race Course, the Downs at Pocono, The Meadows, and Presque Isle Downs, which has been licensed but not yet built. Gov. Ed Rendell said he favors slots at tracks as one way to plug a huge state budget deficit.

Tomlinson, for whom the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association held a fund-raising dinner during his re-election campaign last fall, heralded the legislation during a press conference at Philadelphia Park. On hand was Joseph DiGirolamo, mayor of Bensalem Township, home of Philly Park.

"We can't afford to lose Philadelphia Park or further expansion of its business because Pennsylvania blocked the type of gaming that is available in neighboring New Jersey and Delaware," DiGirolamo said.

The bill would create a Racetrack Gaming Control Board made up of nine members: the chairmen of the state Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing commissions, plus three appointed by Rendell and four appointed by the General Assembly. The panel would receive $2 million per year for operations.

Tomlinson's bill would tax slot machine revenue at 30% with the money distributed to a prescription plan for senior citizens, local tax relief, and the municipality and school district where the tracks are located.

The machines would pay out between 87% and 95% to gamblers. With 21.5% of gross revenue earmarked for purses, 1.5% for Thoroughbred and Standardbred breed development, and 30% for the state, the tracks would get more than 45% of gross revenue. Jockey and driver associations at each track would get $250,000 a year for insurance.

On the subject of purses, the bill notes that the slots revenue is over and above money derived from existing purse agreements.

Racetracks must agree to conduct live racing for at least 100 days a year. Several associations have expressed an interest in the remaining licenses in Pennsylvania, but Tomlinson's bill calls for currently licensed tracks to have slots.