PTHA working to protect Race Horse Development Fund Trust, negotiate live racing agreement

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Feb. 22, 2021

The Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which represents owners and trainers at Parx Racing, said it is working to educate state government on the importance of horse racing and breeding in light of the governor’s proposal to shift $199 million from the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund Trust to education, and also is negotiating a new live racing agreement at Parx.

PTHA President Sal DeBunda, in a recent membership newsletter, said the organization is reminding Gov. Tom Wolf of “the historical context of the law he himself signed a revision to in 2017, which protects the slots money in an encumbered trust for the horseracing industry” and in turn generates $1.6 billion a year in economic activity.

“Pennsylvania racing has already taken a number of hits due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we are optimistic that the state legislature will again reject this proposal,” DeBunda said. “Still, just the mention of a raid on the fund is enough to scare off prospective breeders, despite the lucrative incentives for Pennsylvania-breds in our state. Raiding the fund seems easier than proposing a tax increase, because a vote is not needed. Moreover, most voters never realize that the current legislation supplements local property taxes.

“All the horsemen in Pennsylvania need to work together in solidarity to remind the legislature of the vast economic impact and good jobs that racing provides, and your PTHA is working to do just that.”

Wolf in 2020 issued the same plan to use most of the RHDFT to fund a scholarship program but the legislature rejected it. The Senate Agriculture Committee budget hearing is scheduled for early April. That body debated the issue last year.

As for the PTHA’s live racing agreement with Parx, DeBunda said it has been extended until March 31 as negotiations continue. The current terms of the deal will remain in place until a new agreement is signed.