Study Shows Impact of Slots at Pa. Tracks

A Pennsylvania State University study says that slot machines at the state's four racetracks would trigger a $2.5 billion increase in gross state product and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for state and local governments.

The study was presented to the state House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee Oct. 10. The numbers are based on 6,000 machines -- 1,500 each at The Downs at Pocono, The Meadows, Penn National Race Course, and Philadelphia Park.

The study was commissioned by the racetracks in early 2000 and completed in January of this year. It was brought off the shelf when Rep. Tom Petrone, a Democrat, and Sen. Robert Tomlinson, a Republican, introduced legislation to permit slot machines at racetracks to raise money for senior citizen and education programs. The legislation suggests that 2,000 machines be located at each facility.

The Penn State study provides estimates of the current economic impact of the state's racetracks and sets 2002 projections with slot machines: 17,700 new jobs; a $1-billion increase in personal income for an industry total of at least $1.3 billion; a $2.5-billion increase in economic activity for an industry total impact of $3.2 billion; and a $236-million increase in state and local taxes.

Under the proposed Horse Racing Industry Improvement Act, half of the revenue generated from slots would go to the racing industry, and the other half to the state.

A licensed racetrack would not be allowed to install slot machines until a referendum is approved in the county in which the track is located. The state lottery commission would oversee the slots operations.

Under state law, no more than six Thoroughbred racing and five Standardbred racing licenses can be issued. MTR Gaming, which owns Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort in West Virginia, has applied to the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission for a license to operate a new track in Erie. It would be called Presque Isle Downs and offer three months of live Thoroughbred racing and year-round simulcasting.