PA lawmakers discuss raiding Race Horse Development Fund

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: July 1, 2017

Continued budgetary problems have led state lawmakers to once again ramp up discussions about taking a large chunk of revenue from the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund to help plug the holes.

Racing groups, including the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, issued a call to members to contact their legislators in opposition of the proposal. The issue has come up regularly over at least the past six years, and for a period of time state government diverted a portion of the fund to pay for other programs.

The PRHDF is funded by a percentage of revenue at racetrack casinos and standalone casinos in the state. In 2016 distributions totaled more than $240 million that went to purses at six tracks—three Thoroughbred and three Standardbred—breed development programs, and horsemen’s pension and health plans.

Pennsylvania lawmakers also are at odds over legislation that would expand gaming in the state via Internet gambling or video gambling terminals at bars, taverns and other establishments. They’ve said the expansion would raise additional revenue for the state budget.

The PTHA, which represents horsemen at Parx Racing near Philadelphia, said in an alert to members that legislative leadership of the House of Representatives and Senate is discussing a complete sweep of the PRHDF. The organization said discussions in  Harrisburg will continue over the next several days.

The House and Senate June 30 approved a $32 billion budget for the next fiscal year but don’t have enough money to fund it. Lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene July 5 to discuss a revenue plan.

(Penn National photo by Tom LaMarra)