he Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board released Thursday the Annual Racetrack Casino Benchmark Report detailing the impact of Pennsylvania casinos on the Commonwealth’s horse racing industry. The report includes and compares information from calendar year 2018, and also details key indicators within horse racing which outline the health of the industry over the past five years.
Among the report’s findings is that tax generated by the play of slot machines amounted to $242 million that was earmarked for enhancements of race purses, assisting breeding operations located in Pennsylvania, providing health and pension benefits for horsemen, and to support agricultural initiatives. This represents an increase of 1.3% when compared to the previous year.
The report also shows that casinos that have racetracks continue to invest in backstretch improvements. Since 2006, operators have spent over $73 million to build or renovate buildings and structures.
The performance of the horse racing industry can be volatile due to uncertain weather conditions throughout the racing season. Pennsylvania received record rainfall in 2018, which negatively impacted overall performance indicators. Total dollars wagered on live races held in Pennsylvania, also known as live racing handle, amounted to $669 million in 2018 representing a decrease of 5%. Taxable handle also declined by 3% due to a decrease in simulcast wagering.
The thoroughbred horse racing tracks operating in conjunction with casinos in Pennsylvania are Parx Casino in Bucks County; Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie County; and Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Dauphin County. As for harness racing tracks, The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in Luzerne County; The Meadows Casino and Racetrack in Washington County; and Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack in Delaware County.
Additionally, the report and its accompanying detailed statistical summary, provides a 5-year historical summary on attendance at Pennsylvania’s racetracks; a breakdown of PA Race Horse Development Trust Fund distributions; figures for breeding of both thoroughbred and standardbred horses; number of live races held in Pennsylvania and number of horses competing; purses awarded; and taxable handle and live racing handle.
The Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act states that the authorization of limited gaming is intended to positively assist the Commonwealth’s horse racing industry, support programs intended to foster and promote horse breeding, and improve the living and working conditions of personnel who work and reside in and around the stable and backside areas of racetracks. The primary resources provided to the horse racing industry are financial incentives offered through the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund, which is funded by a portion (approximately 10%) of gross revenue generated from slot machine gaming from the 12 casinos.