Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission approves marketing plans

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: April 18,  2017

The Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission at a special meeting April 17 approved six marketing plans that will be paid for with $900,000 from a new marketing fund for racing and breeding in the state.

A 2016 horseracing reform law mandates that 1% of the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund go toward marketing and promotion of the industry. Based on 2016 RHDF figures, the total is about $2.4 million.

Six organizations each were approved for $150,000 in expenditures in a process that was expedited because some of the marketing plans are tied to the upcoming Triple Crown races or major in-state races such as the June 3 Penn Mile at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course. Review and approval had been scheduled for the April 27 regular meeting of the PHRC.

The strategy behind the marketing fund was discussed at the March PHRC meeting.

The RHDF, money for which comes from a percentage of slot machine revenue, primarily supports purses, breed development and horsemen’s pension programs. The racing reform law expanded its uses to include marketing and financial support for equine drug testing.

The six organizations are the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, Meadows Standardbred Owners Association, Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association, and the Standardbred Breeders Association of Pennsylvania. The $900,000 is supposed to be used to augment any existing marketing and promotional spends by the organizations and the state’s six racetracks, said Cheryl Cook, Deputy Agriculture Secretary in Pennsylvania.

The PHRC falls under the Department of Agriculture.

The Pennsylvania THA, which represents horsemen at Parx Racing, in the past has funded things such as local television coverage of major stakes.

“These dollars represent new money for us,” PTHA Executive Director Mike Ballezzi said. “We’ve had marketing programs in the past.”

The six marketing plans weren’t discussed in detail during the meeting. Tom Chuckas, PHRC Bureau Director of Thoroughbred racing, said the intent is to make the plans public at a later date. The organizations were asked to include information on target audiences and quantifiable goals, and will be asked to provide metrics, he said.

“As we go forward with this, we’d like a monthly accounting of what you’ve spent,” Chuckas told organization representatives.

The agenda for the special meeting listed “an amended ejection and hearing process” for discussion, but it was removed and will be dealt with at a future meeting.

(THA photo)