Legislation: Pa. Race Horse Development Protected Under New Law

A Standardbred warms up before the races at Harrah's Philadelphia, in Chester, Pa. Credits: Lillian Shupe

After several years of uncertainty surrounding the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund (PRHDF), Governor Tom Wolf signed a bill into law protecting the funds from being appropriated for other purposes.

The monies from the PRHDF are meant to support Thoroughbred and Standardbred breed development programs, plus horsemen’s pension and health plans. But in recent years, the state has diverted funds to offset other budget issues.  

According to a press release from the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association:

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The new law prevents the state from raiding the fund. It also expanded other gambling in Pennsylvania.  Now, "mini-casinos," VGTs at truck stops, online gaming and lottery products will be allowed. Proceeds from those sites will not contribute to the PRHDF.

It also opens the possibility for parimutuel horse racing wagering through operators not directly connected to racetracks.

“All of these will compete to a certain degree with current revenue-generating sources that contribute to purses. Exactly how much impact this expansion will have is yet to be seen. Some of these (truck stop VGTs, online lottery games) will probably have little effect on our revenues. Others may be the subject of legal challenges or a long implementation process, meaning they could be many months or even years away. And it's possible ‘mini-casinos’ might only appeal to a small subset of gamblers who want a no-frills experience lacking the glamor and amenities of Vegas-style properties like Mohegan Sun Pocono or Harrah's Philadelphia. In fact, when the day comes that all of these expanded gaming options are in place, it's possible their combined impact, if negative, could actually be less than future legislative raids on the fund might have been were it not for our new set of protections with the newly established trust fund and lockbox and clawback provisions,” the release said.

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