The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition has announced a provision of state code that resulted in the diversion of 17%—more than $200 million over the last four years—from the Race Horse Development Fund has sunset with the adoption of the state budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
Also, the coalition reported a budget proposal to divert approximately $31 million this year from the development fund had been reduced to $17.6 million following an aggressive campaign by the state’s horsemen and breeder organizations.
“We are relieved the 17% diversion is over and the proposal to divert $31 million was scaled back, but we remain concerned about the long-term impact that diverting funds will have on the racing industry,” Pete Peterson, spokesperson for the coalition, said in a release. “Like any industry, businesses involved in horse racing and breeding require the ability to make long-term calculations about the viability of the industry. When the amount of money available for purses and breeders incentives is in constant question, it discourages business owners from making capital investments and it impacts the amount of money owners are willing to invest in Pennsylvania horses.”
Peterson’s statement said the diversion of funds over the past four years had a negative effect on the state’s industry due to the lack of stability of the fund.
“The diversion of monies from their intended purposes in the Race Horse Development Fund has negatively impacted breeding operations in Pennsylvania and resulted in reductions in purses at the state’s racetracks, which impacts horse owners, stable hands, trainers, blacksmiths, jockeys, veterinarians, and farmers who produce feed,” said Peterson. “Diverting funds creates uncertainty, which results in less dollars being invested in Pennsylvania, which directly impacts jobs.
“Breeding of horses is a direct function of the stability of the RHDF and the current economy,” said Peterson. “It is a long-term process of approximately four years. Breeders and investors need to feel that they have an opportunity for a reasonable return on the dollars they spend. That is why stability of the fund is vital to the long-term success of Pennsylvania’s racing and breeding industry.”
Even with the ongoing concerns about the stability of the development fund, Peterson said, the racing and breeding industry in Pennsylvania has experienced a rebirth since the state legalized casino gaming and created the RHDF which is funded through an assessment on slot machine revenues.
“The racing and breeding industry has accomplished a great deal over the past decade, creating tens of thousands of jobs,” said Peterson. “We have much to be proud of, but we will never know how much more we could have accomplished had the funds from the Race Horse Development Fund not been diverted. Looking to the future, we intend to highlight what we have accomplished despite the enormous uncertainty that has existed in recent years, and work to ensure the fund remains stable going forward.”