PA lawmakers pass new breeding fund language

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Oct. 30, 2016

Legislation that makes some changes to the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Breeding Fund and restores breeder and stallion award payments is headed to Gov. Tom Wolf for his signature.

The measure passed the Senate on a 47-0 vote Oct. 26 after it was re-reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee the previous day. The House of Representatives Oct. 17 approved the bill, which deals only with the Thoroughbred breeding fund section of broad horseracing reform legislation signed into law earlier this year, by a vote of 192-0.

In light of the fact the original language that governed the breeding fund was somehow altered in the new law, breeder and stallion awards have been suspended for about nine months. Roughly $7 million has been withheld pending adoption of new statutory language.

The legislation had been slotted for third and final consideration Oct. 26 on the calendar but as of early afternoon wasn’t included on the list of bills the Senate planned to vote upon. The Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association via a memo asked members to contact the office of Republican Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman to urge a vote on the bill; it was brought to the floor later in the day.

The legislation marks a compromise of sorts in that awards for Pennsylvania-bred horses by Pennsylvania sires that finish first, second or third will earn 40% of their share of the purse rather than the previous 30% effective Jan. 1, 2017. Awards for Pennsylvania-breds by out-of-state sires that finish first, second or third will remain at 20%.

As for awards for owners of Pennsylvania-based sires, they will remain at 10% of the purse share for horses that finish first, second or third. The bill also changes the parameters for owner awards derived from the breeding program, which totals about $18 million a year and is funded by revenue from casino slot machines.

According to a fiscal note, effective in 2017 when there is at least $10 million more in the Pennsylvania Breeding Fund than was deposited in 2016, any funds remaining after the deduction of awards and administrative costs will be distributed to racetracks in proportion to the rate by which they generated the funds in the previous year and be used for purses for owners as follows under this mechanism: 50% for owner bonuses or to pay purses for races restricted to Pennsylvania-bred horses by Pennsylvania sires, and 50% for owner bonuses or to pay purses for races restricted to Pennsylvania-breds.

The overall Thoroughbred breeding program in Pennsylvania is said to be valued at about $30 million a year because horsemen’s groups allocate roughly $12 million in regular purse money to support restricted races and owner bonuses for the connections of winning horses.