Gaming Revenues Already Improving Pennsylvania’s Horse Racing Industry
HARRISBURG: Top management from Pennsylvania horse race tracks told the Gaming Control Board today that the success of legalized slots machine gaming is already paying tremendous dividends toward reinvigorating the Commonwealth’s horse racing industry.
Appearing before the Board at its regular meeting today, representatives of state horse race tracks said the new money created by slots gaming have significantly increased purses resulting in attraction of better horses, boosted attendance at simulcast facilities located at the tracks, and spurred plans for improvement of patron amenities.
In addition, gaming revenues are leading to plans for significant improvements to the backstretch area of the tracks including stables and dormitory facilities. Except for newly constructed tracks Presque Isle Downs and Chester Downs, these backstretch improvements are required by the Gaming Act through the expenditure by each facility of $5 million dollars over the initial five-year period following the issuance of their license and no less than $1.25 million for five years thereafter. Some of the tracks testified that their plans will be in excess of this minimum requirement.
The four facilities that opened since Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs saw the first slot machine begin public play in November, 2006 have accepted more than $3.5 billion in wagers resulting in a return to date of more than $39 million to the horse racing industry. Of that amount, 80% must be placed in a purse account set up by and for the benefit of the horsemen and 4% goes to a health and pension benefit account for the horsemen. The remaining 16% of funds go to breeder’s programs which are administered by the Commonwealth.
Representing the four operating slots facilities were:
- Robert J. Soper, President & CEO and Dale Rapson, Vice President, Racetrack Operations at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs
- Dave Jonas, President & COO, Hal Handel, CEO, and Thomas C. Bonner, Vice President & General Counsel for Philadelphia Park Casino
- Vince Donlevie, Senior Vice President & General Manager, and Michael Tanner, Director of Racing Operations at Harrah’s Chester Casino and Racetrack
- Richard Knight, President, CEO, General Manager, Rosemary Williams, Director of Racing Operations (MTR Gaming) and Debbie Howells, Director of Racing at Presque Isle Downs
Two track slot facilities have yet to open. Representatives from those companies updated the Board on their preparation to commence operations:
- Michael Graninger, Vice President and General Manager and John Marshall, General Manager at The Meadows Racetrack and Casino
- J. Gary Luderitz, Vice President & General Manager and Rob Marella, Director of Racing at Hollywood Casino at Penn National
The Meadows is working toward approval by the Gaming Board for an early summer opening, while Penn National expects to be ready to seek approval for opening in early 2008.
Combined with licensing fees, legalized gaming from these six facilities has thus far returned $480 million to taxpayers.
Also at its regular meeting the Board announced that guidelines and applications for the Local Law Enforcement Grant Program are available on the PGCB web site, www.pgcb.state.pa.us. The application period to qualify for a grant under the $5 million annual program will run until June 29, 2007.
The grant, intended to enforce and prevent the unlawful operation of slot machines, is a program developed and approved by the Legislature as part of the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act and funded with $5 million annually from money generated from slot machine facilities.
The next scheduled meeting of the Gaming Control Board will be held in the State Museum in Harrisburg on June 5, 2007 beginning at 11:00 am.