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April Slots Revenue At PA Racinos Falls

Published: May 7, 2013 2:36 pm ET

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Continuing a trend of steady declines, revenues from slot machines at Pennsylvania’s six racetrack casinos were down 7.4 per cent for the month of April compared to the same month in 2012.

The decrease in slots revenue caused funding for the state’s Race Horse Development Fund -- which supports live horse racing and breeding in the state -- to decrease by $1.77 million for the month of April.

“Slots revenues at Pennsylvania’s racetrack casinos have now fallen for nine of the last ten months, which has resulted in a 6.14 per cent or $14.3 million drop this fiscal year in funding to support horse racing and breeding in the state,” said Pete Peterson, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Equine Coalition. “It is becoming increasingly clear that this is not an anomaly, but a trend that will continue due to the increasing competition from casino gaming in other states.”

The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition projects that funds to the Race Horse Development Fund -- which are based on the performance of slots revenue at the state’s racetrack casinos -- will fall $28.5 million short of the Governor’s initial budget projections, which were released in February. In March, the Administration took the unusual step of downwardly revising its budget projections for the RHDF, but the Coalition projects the fund will still fall short of those revised figures by roughly $17 million this fiscal year.

“Competition from neighboring states for patrons’ gambling dollars is increasing, and those being hardest hit are the state’s racetrack casinos,” said Peterson. “That in turn is causing a decrease in funding available to support the horse racing and breeding industry in Pennsylvania, forcing cuts in purses and breeders incentives. Given the hit we are already taking from increased competition, the budget proposal to divert $31 million from the fund could drive small businesses out of Pennsylvania to other states that offer better purses and incentives.”

On a statewide basis, gross terminal revenues from slot machine gaming was down 4.2 per cent for the month compared to April 2012. However, non-racetrack casinos saw a decrease of only 1.0 per cent. This distinction is significant, because funding for the Race Horse Development Fund is based solely on gross terminal revenues of the state’s Category 1 casinos -- a designation given to casinos which host equine racing. As a result, the decline in funds to the Race Horse Development fund is 7.4 per cent, 175 per cent more than the decline in total gross terminal revenues on a statewide basis.

The Pennsylvania legislature legalized casino gaming in the state as part of an effort to save and revitalize the horse racing and breeding industry, and it succeeded. According to the Department of Agriculture, as a result of casino gaming, the economic impact of the racing industry in Pennsylvania more than quadrupled and employment tripled from 13,870 to more than 41,100.

“Pennsylvania has been a success story, a model for other states,” continued Peterson. “But the diversion of money from the racing fund will hurt an industry that is already experiencing funding declines and undermine the confidence of the industry in Pennsylvania’s commitment to horse racing and breeding. If the racing fund becomes a pool of money that can be dipped into by state government to fund other government programs, businesses involved in the horse racing industry are not going to invest in Pennsylvania. That in turn will have a ripple effect on the farmers who produce feed, veterinarians and others who care for the horses, and small businesses that sell supplies. Horse racing is an industry that needs to be nurtured in Pennsylvania, because it is the horses themselves that are the economic engines and job creators.”

The Race Horse Development Fund enhances live horse racing and breeding programs in the Commonwealth by supplementing purses and enhancing race horse breeding incentives. The fund was a crucial component of Act 71 of 2004, the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act, which legalized slot machine gaming in Pennsylvania in an effort to save the Pennsylvania horse racing and breeding industry.

The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition is a statewide group representing more than 10,000 owners and trainers of the horse racing industry in Pennsylvania. Members of the coalition include the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association, the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, the Standardbred Breeders Association of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association, and the Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association.

(Pennsylvania Equine Coalition)

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