Could Be Historic: Corporate Welfare for Pennsylvania’s Cruel, Deadly Horseracing Industry in Jeopardy

Yesterday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf unveiled a budget that would divert some $200 million in horseracing subsidies to education: “I’m proposing a historic $200 million investment in scholarships for the young Pennsylvanians attending our state system universities. And we’ll do that by repurposing existing tax dollars that are right now flowing into the Horse Racing Development Fund. Let’s bet on our kids instead of bankrolling race horse owners.”

(Pete Peterson, executive director of the Pennsylvania Equine Coalition, said this, in the Daily Racing Form, in response: “If approved by the legislature, this raid would result in the end of horse racing in Pennsylvania by eviscerating the primary funding source for the purses [90% of purse cash comes from slots and other gaming] and breeder incentives that serve as the lifeblood of the industry.” A “raid”? Please. But let’s hope Mr. Peterson proves prophetic.)

Hear, hear, Governor Wolf! We have been arguing for this for years: Stop bailing out a dying, cruel industry at the expense of schoolchildren, infrastructure, etc. Early last year, I sent the following to every member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly (I have updated with latest figures). Today, it is more important than ever that they hear from us: Pennsylvania House; Pennsylvania Senate. And let’s also express our gratitude to Governor Wolf. (Feel free to paraphrase anything you see below.)

I am writing today in the hope that you might reconsider the subsidies being paid to your state’s horseracing industry. I am arguing this on two levels: First, propping up individual industries runs counter to America’s free-market principles. Myriad trades have come and gone in our nation’s history (horse-and-buggy), with winners and losers determined by the merits of, and relative demand for, one’s goods and services. It should not be in government’s purview to keep unwanted – as decided by the market – businesses afloat. To that, here are some pertinent facts:

Horseracing is clearly in decline: Since 2000, U.S. Racing has suffered a net loss of 34 tracks; all other metrics – racedays, races, “fields,” “foal crop,” and, yes, attendance and handle – are also down. The public is speaking – unequivocally – with its wallet.

With the ubiquity of stand-alone casinos and state lotteries (and soon, all-sports betting), Racing has cried foul, claiming that these new businesses are somehow unfair to them. In fact, prior to the advent of lottery products, Horseracing enjoyed a virtual monopoly – for decades – on legal gambling. Now that was unfair.

In Pennsylvania, according to a 2017 report, the racing industry has received $2.6 billion in corporate welfare over the past decade – $239 million in ’17 alone. Referring to this, The Philadelphia Inquirer, in an editorial, wrote, “If multiple billions can’t turn around an industry, isn’t it time we asked how much longer we’re willing to try before altering the arrangement?” (see also, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial)

Far more important, however, is the moral aspect to all this. In short, horseracing kills horses – lots of them. Through our seminal FOIA reporting, we have determined that upward of 2,000 horses are killed racing or training on U.S. tracks every year – easily six per day; to date, we have documented almost 6,000 kills on our website – cardiovascular collapse, pulmonary hemorrhage, blunt-force head trauma; shattered limbs, ruptured ligaments, broken necks, crushed spines.

In addition, every year, hundreds more perish from what the industry craftily calls “non-racing causes” – colic, laminitis, “found dead in stall.” In truth, however, these horses are no less casualties than the ones who snap legs on raceday. And perhaps worst of all, the great majority of “retired” racehorses end up brutally and violently slaughtered when deemed no longer profitable – some 10,000-15,000 Thoroughbreds alone annually. Put bluntly, but accurately, the American horseracing industry is engaged in wholesale carnage. Yes, carnage.

But it’s even worse. While active, life for the typical racehorse is mean and cruel:

From birth, racehorses are pieces of property – chattel. They are bought, sold, traded, and dumped whenever and however their people decide – a stressful, tenuous existence that in and of itself causes pain and suffering: According to the Pennsylvania 2016 FOIA documents, to date the most detailed we have received, virtually every one of the dead horses died with ulcers, most “extensive to severe.”

Racehorses are kept locked in tiny stalls for over 23 hours a day, making a heartrending mockery of the industry claim that horses are “born to run, love to run.”

Racehorses are kept utterly isolated from their peers – an extra layer of cruelty for naturally social, herd-oriented animals.

Racehorses are (obviously) nonconsensually drugged and doped – incessantly injected with myriad performance-enhancing, injury-masking, and pain-numbing chemicals.

Racehorses are utterly controlled and subjugated for the entire length of their “careers.” Indeed, the “race” itself can only be effected through force: nose chains, tongue ties, mouth bits, and, of course, perched humans wielding whips.

In summary, not only is your state diverting much-needed funding for education and other public-good projects to a dying industry, but, in a cruel twist, taxpayers, the vast majority of whom have zero interest in horseracing, are subsidizing unconscionable cruelty and wanton killing. While we would love to see a day when horseracing is banned (like dogracing), for now we are simply asking that the market be allowed to do what it is designed to do. Please do not fall prey to their talk of lost jobs and economic havoc. Horseracing, unlike, perhaps, some other industries (agriculture, banking), is not too big or essential to fail. And if allowed, failure will bring the added benefit of collective moral advancement, as countless horses will henceforth be spared lives of immense suffering and horrible deaths. Thank you.

Patrick Battuello
Founder/President, Horseracing Wrongs

The ’17 and ’18 (the last two years for which we have full statistics) Pennsylvania Dead:

2017
Parx Racing: 43 dead racehorses
Penn National: 48 dead racehorses
Presque Isle Downs: 9 dead racehorses
Harrah’s Philadelphia: 1 dead racehorse
Pocono Downs: 4 dead racehorses
The Meadows: 2 dead racehorses

2018
Parx Racing: 35 dead racehorses
Penn National: 45 dead racehorses
Presque Isle Downs: 8 dead racehorses
Harrah’s Philadelphia: 4 dead racehorses
Pocono Downs: 2 dead racehorses
The Meadows: 4 dead racehorses

36 Comments

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  1. This would be an excellent use of funding instead of propping up a rotten industry founded on cruelty. Thank you, Governor for suggesting taxpayers no longer pay so much so a few can gamble, and even fewer make money running and torturing their horses.

  2. Great positive step on the part of Pennsylvania legislators and Governor Wolf. Let’s hope that students will greatly benefit and Horseracing dies a natural death.

  3. The industry of horseracing is objectionable to the conscience of many people who pay taxes; therefore, horseracing may qualify as turpitude, a corrupt or depraved (also, vile) or degenerate act or practice.

    Go, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf!
    You are doing the right thing to invest in the future of Pennsylvania’s children! You are doing the right thing to stop subsidizing an industry that shocks the conscience and sensibilities of many taxpaying individuals and families. Stop all subsidies to horseracing and horse killing by sadistic abuse and cruelty and torture. Thank you, Governor Tom Wolf.

  4. Awesome! A stand up guy you got there in Pennsylvania!
    Hopefully many other politicians will follow and things will change for this bloody industry.
    It only takes one thoughtful guy to get the stone rolling!!

  5. Thanks for this much needed post and proposal by Gov. Wolf.
    I’ve already sent a letter supporting this proposal and I will send some to the senate.
    It’s been known for years that both Republican and Democratic politicians receive political donations from horse racing to guarantee in return that they keep the money flowing to horse racing instead of community services so I’m cautiously optimistic since this bill would require bi-partisan support of the GOP PA senate.
    Of course the racehorses are the biggest victims of horse racing, but it’s also our communities, our children, our children’s futures, our infrastructure all of which could be boosted immensely with the amount of money they would get instead of horse racing.
    If politicians listened to the taxpayers in their communities it’s clear that they don’t want to support horse racing, and why should they anyways?
    It’s time to shut down their never ending taxpayer/casino stream of money coming in and then they will collapse just like all the racehorses who do on their death rings.

  6. Torture is not culture! “The greatness of a nation is judged by the way it’s animals are treated”! Humans Nd to learn to respect animals luv and care for them 🙏🏼❤️to not do so is monstrous and inhumane!🤬😡😥 Ban horse racing 🏇 now n forever! We r their voice n support!

  7. This is one time I can be proud to be a Pennsylvanian. (Now if we could just get our legislature to outlaw the damn barbaric live bird shoots – unfortunately, the area between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh is accurately called “Pennsyltucky” because of its backwards mentality.)

    But this is a huge step forward. I will be writing to Gov. Wolf in support of this.

  8. Awwwww. Poor, poor horse-manglers are about to lose their handouts; they thought everyone would tolerate their Abuse-for-Welfare scheme forever and ever. Turns out, not so much.
    Sorry, Pennsylvania racing creeps. This is the end for your publicly-funded blood sport. Don’t lose hope, though: I hear there’s money to be made in the growing Racetrack Demolition and Conversion Industry:)

  9. On Tuesday, February 4, 2020, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf unveiled a budget proposal to divert $200 million existing tax dollars —[i.e., which are now flowing, as a massive subsidy, into the Horse Racing Development Fund]— into scholarships for young Pennsylvanians instead??!!
    As a resident of Pennsylvania, I’d humbly like to say *Thank You*, Governor Wolf, for your ………… l.e.a.d.e.r.s.h.i.p.!

  10. Mr. Battuello’s letter to Governor Wolf is excellent. I’m glad he made the argument regarding there being better uses for the money, because there ARE better uses, and I’m glad that he wove capitalist values into his argument, because they ARE persuasive, but I’m even more glad that he squarely made the moral argument and made it well.

    He supported his moral argument with a set of facts so painfully and carefully gathered over so long a period of time as to defy rebuttal. Racing industry titans may fume and blow smoke, but that is all they can do, and it will NOT carry the day.

    Mr. Battuello’s focus on ending corporate welfare for the racing industry is very wise, and I think he is on the verge of a major victory for our long-suffering equine counterparts. HIs victory will be a victory for ALL of us who believe in what he is doing and have been following his efforts and cheering him on and doing what we can to help.

    This is such good news. My heart is happy, and I will follow through and make the requested contacts, with pleasure. It is a pleasure to be able to do something to help.

  11. The pro racing people are already on the bandwagon listing all the loses this would incur to them. Governor Wolf is an upstanding guy. I have noticed he sticks to his convictions and will make good decisions. Maybe the commonwealth of Pennsylvania will pave the way

  12. The racehorses are the biggest losers – we know this, but here are some economical facts:
    there has been a 68.9% DECLINE of wagering at PA tracks since 2006, which corresponds with the ever increasing handouts given to keep this Titanic business afloat. 88.2% of their income is from the slots or above sources and/or combined sources. (Source from Economic Impact Report PA).
    Secondly, this multi-billion dollar industry refuses to make a 1% contribution to racehorse aftercare mandatory.
    They don’t even make an effort, they don’t care as their never ending casino/taxpayer cash flow keeps rolling in with no accountability and little transparency.
    Thirdly, the jockeys (now I realize that they have a choice and it’s hard to garner sympathy for jockeys) who get maimed for life and are begging for private donations for their healthcare.
    it’s completely unacceptable and I can’t think of any other American business model that gets away with this.
    For example, today we find out that the jockeys are boycotting PARX on Saturday because 1) the condition of the jockeys room, including sanitary conditions; 2) a form Parx has told jockeys they must complete that includes any information about any past legal problems; and 3) the fact that Parx has stopped providing funds to the Jockeys’ Guild that are used for jockey benefits. (Source: Paulick Report)
    Just think about that. Here we have a business that is collecting BILLIONS in handouts depriving taxpayers of this money for their communities and are now not financially contributing to the Jockey’s benefits.
    Whatever you think of jockeys (beating the crap out of racehorses which is so wrong) they are human beings and they are workers who deserve basic benefits especially in a high risk business like this.
    Sure you could argue that they make a choice to do what they do, but they still deserve benefits and so do the racehorses who deserve financial safety nets when their done maiming them.
    The back room deals cut between politicians and horse racing is corrupt to the core and PA horse racing has been exposed during some recent court trials – it’s worse than ever.
    Horse racing is a viper pit full of parasites that don’t deserve one dime of casino and/or taxpayers money.
    If the billions were diverted from horse racing into our communities it would be one of the most positive things for the residents of PA and especially the racehorses.

    • Evidently, the jockeys are as disposable as the horses are in the horseracing industry and I didn’t know this until your comment, Gina, informing us about Parx and their “new” policy to let the jockeys fend for themselves after they are injured. Hopefully, this “clever” move on behalf of PARX will speed up the process of bringing horseracing and horse killing by cruelty and torture to an end.

  13. Thank you Patrick Battuello for your beautifully written, no holes bared article of condemnation on the cruelty of the horse racing industry. I wish this article could go viral! And thank you Governor Wolfe for your effort to divert taxpayer funds to a more needed purpose. I hope some day all animals on this planet will free from people who are fattening their wallets off of their blood and suffering.

  14. Good news! I will be reaching out.

    Do we have any data on the other states that subsidize horseracing? I had no idea it was paid for in this way with taxpayer money.

    • I hope all of the jockeys can find gainful employment doing something worthwhile and get out of the animal abuse industry. There are jobs for things that don’t include whipping horses, so I hope this could be a turning point for the jockeys.

    • Awwww, the jockey’s room was dirty. Boo hoo. What about the racehorses left standing in their own manure and urine for 23 hours a day?

      • Even when the stalls are cleaned at least once a day, horses can still get hoof health issues. You have probably heard the saying, “No hoof, no horse” which means that a horse must have healthy hooves to be able to walk or do anything, as I’m sure you know. When horses stand in mud and muck, feces and urine, for long periods of time without proper care, the horses can sometimes get a condition called thrush. It is serious. I wonder how many horses at Parx or any other racetrack get messed up hooves. I would guess a lot of horses have to suffer from hoof health problems at racetracks.

  15. As expected, the “horsemen” groups and pro-horse racing entities are coming out in full swing.
    Isn’t it funny how they find the money to hire public relations groups, attorneys, sports writers, journalists and whoever else will take their blood money, but they can’t find $200 to save a racehorse from boarding the slaughterhouse truck?
    So now they are going into full fight mode with their main focus being jobs, jobs, jobs.
    This has been done before and what I find so puzzling and inexcusable is why our politicians don’t cite jobs, jobs, jobs, in EDUCATION, INFRASTRUCTURE, PROPERTY TAXES FOR DEVELOPMENTS etc, etc.
    Are they plain stupid or just paid-off?
    The horse racing industry has us convinced that they are, miraculously, the only business that can create jobs and maintain jobs, but they fail to mention that it’s us paying for it!!!
    Furthermore, jobs in education, construction, etc are DECENT jobs that contribute to our economy and their disposable incomes supports thousands of other jobs.
    Since the industry cleverly includes in their “jobs” argument all of the agricultural jobs that are needed to support horse racing (hay, straw, feed) then it only stands to reason that we should include all the jobs that decent paying people will support.
    Even aside from the decent jobs, we will be educating our children who are our future, upgrading much needed infrastructure for the flow of commerce, and of course a regular stream of tax revenue from the property that would be developed in place of the death rings.
    Their ridiculous claims of jobs can be easily discounted when you consider all the jobs that the non-racing industries would provide and the entire community benefits not just a bunch of racehorse abusers.
    Please everybody WRITE the politicians linked above.

    • Racing is almost gone in Michigan and, oddly, all the farmers are still in business. They just planted soybeans instead of alfalfa.

      • I laughed when I saw the farmers were advocating for racing so they had a place to sell their hay. I don’t know about PA, but I know where I live, especially the last few years, hay has been harder and harder to come by. And at the end of this last summer, some farmers were charging $9 a bale around here. The biggest threat around here is that kids don’t want to farm anymore- so next thing you know, grandpa’s 4th generation 100 acre farm has become the latest 100 cluster -home subdivision. Horse farms around me are keeping hay guys in business, even without having active racing horses at their farms.

  16. If Parx casino would unload the horseracing next door to them , the grounds would make a great hotel,pool,conference venue,retail upscale shops,cute little bistro for food and booze. Problem solved.lots of all different kinds of jobs right at their fingertips. They can also have bus trips to nearby Philadelphia that has all sorts of cultural and social events.

  17. Banning Horse Racing (and all forms of institutionalized animal cruelty) is a great idea!
    Cutting off the funds for activities/entities/industries/individuals that exploit/abuse animals is an even better idea!
    And actually diverting all funds earmarked for any industry that exploits animals is a superb idea!
    Educating, legislating and enforcing laws that protect horses (and all other animals) is definitely a step in the right direction.
    Bravo Governor Wolf!
    But let’s make sure that education means educating that animal exploitation—which comes in many forms—should no longer be the status quo.
    We must educate humans to treat horses (and all other animals) with dignity and respect. Horses are not to be treated as money-making slaves, they have the inherent right to not be exploited or abused.
    This is true for all animals. No one has the right to strip animals of their inherent rights.

  18. And any institution/entity/company/individual—whether human or corporate— that exploits/abuses horses or any other animal should be severely punished.

    Horses are sentient beings. They also suffer from physical, emotional and/or psychological pain.Victims of abuse/exploitation are victims regardless of the species they belong to. Thus, the punishment for such actions should be the same regardless of the species of the victim.

    Case in point, horses used in horse racing—and in other well-established abusive practices—are victims of abuse and exploitation. But their pain is silenced because they are considered “inferior beings”—their very existence has been disregarded (except as mere “property”) because powerful forces have have always refused to acknowledge their inherent rights, and the courts (for now) still refuse to recognize that horses (and all animals) are “persons” and should be granted Personhood in the eyes of the law.

    Since it is a fact that corporations and other legal entities are considered PERSONS in the eyes of the law, both common sense and logic dictate that animals—living,breathing, sentient beings, born with the inherent right to live their lives free from exploitation—should also be recognized as PERSONS in the eyes of the law.

    In sum, let’s grant animals their long-awaited and well-deserved PERSONHOOD. And let them prosecute or sue any who exploit them or violate their rights.

    As to the funds Governor Wolf so judiciously intends to divert away from the abusive horse racing industry and into Education, let’s make sure that by education we mean teaching the valuable, self-evident principles that animals are not property, they are born with inherent rights, they have legal defenses, they have advocates and defenders—and taxpayer funds should be used to safeguard the wellbeing of BOTH humans AND ANIMALS—this an INCLUSIVE—not an either/or—proposition.

    It’s time to abolish animal slavery once and for all.

    Because God did not create animals for humans. Animals were created independently from us and as our partners on this planet. We share their DNA. Our mandate is to share this planet responsibly with other fellow living beings. Let’s start by BANNING HORCE RACING!

  19. And any institution/entity/company/individual—whether human or corporate— that exploits/abuses horses or any other animal should be severely punished.
    Horses are sentient beings. They also suffer from physical, emotional and/or psychological pain.Victims of abuse/exploitation are victims regardless of the species they belong to. Thus, the punishment for such actions should be the same regardless of the species of the victim.
    Case in point, horses used in horse racing—and in other well-established abusive practices —are victims of abuse and exploitation. But their pain is silenced because they are considered “inferior beings”—their very existence has been disregarded (except as mere “property”) because powerful forces have have always refused to acknowledge their inherent rights, and the courts (for now) still refuse to recognize that horses (and all animals) are “persons” and should be granted Personhood in the eyes of the law.
    Since it is a fact that corporations and other legal entities are considered PERSONS in the eyes of the law, both common sense and logic dictate that animals—living,breathing, sentient beings, born with the inherent right to live their lives free from exploitation— should also be recognized as PERSONS in the eyes of the law.
    In sum, let’s grant animals their long-awaited and well-deserved PERSONHOOD. And let them prosecute or sue any who exploit them or violate their rights.
    As to the funds Governor Wolf so judiciously intends to divert away from the abusive horse racing industry and into Education, let’s make sure that by education we mean teaching the valuable, self-evident principles that animals are not property, they are born with inherent rights, they have legal defenses, they have advocates and defenders—and taxpayer funds should be used to safeguard the wellbeing of BOTH humans AND ANIMALS—this an INCLUSIVE—not an either/or—proposition.
    It’s time to abolish horse slavery once and for all.

  20. Excellent idea! — NO ONE should be subsidizing this racket — without this depravedly cruel and greedy support, HORSE-RACING would vanish — something is VERY WRONG HERE.

  21. You’re right — this IS good news — ANIMALS are innocent and vulnerable and ALWAYS at the mercy of Humans — My mind CANNOT wrap itself around the horrific absurdity of this so-called sport — this is so BEYOND WRONG and HATEFUL — what do we do? — we MUST SHUT DOWN the brutal, unconscionable, sadistic depraved industry of HORSE-RACING — FOREVER.

  22. I would like to see Horse Racing banned, because these beautiful horses, die because of racing for the big wins!
    I am totally against it!!
    STOP HORSE RACING

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