With Gambling Expansion, Things Are Looking Up For PA Racetracks

Written By Marty Derbyshire on April 5, 2018 - Last Updated on May 30, 2019
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Slot machines at the state’s 12 operating casinos generated a whopping $239 million in tax money for the local horse racing industry last year, according to a newly released Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board report.

The board released its Annual Racetrack Casino Benchmark Report this week. The report generally details the impact of Pennsylvania casinos on the Commonwealth’s horse racing industry.

The Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Trust Fund

The Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Trust Fund was created to provide financial resources to the horse racing industry. It uses the tax money generated by casinos.

In fact, 10 percent of the revenue generated by slot machine play at all PA casinos is earmarked for the fund. In 2017, that amounted to $239 million. Although that represented a decrease of 2.5 percent compared to 2016.

The $239 million in tax revenue generated for the fund in 2017 was earmarked for things like:

  • Enhancements of race purses
  • Assisting breeding operations located in the state
  • Providing health and pension benefits for horsemen
  • To support local agricultural initiatives

The authorization of slots at racetracks in PA was initially approved by lawmakers in an effort to bolster the struggling horse racing industry. The effort appears to be working. Not only are tax revenues being regularly funneled into avenues supporting the industry, but the industry has now seen growth and improvements as a result.

Live racing handle on the rise

According to the report, total dollars wagered on live races held at the six racetracks operating in Pennsylvania went up three percent in 2017. In fact, it exceeded $700 million.

This represented the first year-over-year increase in live racing handle in Pennsylvania since 2013.

However, authors of the Annual Racetrack Casino Benchmark Report say the uptick can be directly attributed an increase in wagers on Pennsylvania races by patrons outside of the Commonwealth. Total dollars wagered on Pennsylvania races at the six racetracks, nine off-track wagering facilities, and through electronic wagering offered by licensed racetracks, all declined last year.

But even more growth may be on the way.

As a part of the comprehensive state-wide gambling expansion approved by lawmakers in October 2017, casinos in Pennsylvania without racetracks now have the option to offer pari-mutuel wagering on live horse racing.

Plus, a portion of the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Trust Fund has now been earmarked for marketing horse racing. It is being used under the direction of the State Horse Racing Commission.

More on exactly where Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Trust Fund money goes, revenue generated by horse racing facilities in the state, and improvements being made at these facilities can be found in the full Racetrack Casino Benchmark Report on the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board website.

Horse racing and casinos in PA

The six horse racing tracks in Pennsylvania with casino operations that feature both slots and table games include:

Parx Casino also happens to be the top-grossing casino and gaming operation in the entire state.

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Marty Derbyshire

Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.

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