For the second time in two years, The Philadelphia Inquirer’s editorial board blasted the commonwealth for propping up its horseracing industry (to the tune of some $3 billion since 2004). This time, however, the paper also mentioned ever-increasing outrage over dead racehorses, something, I say with pride, we’ve had much to do with. This, coming as it does from Pennsylvania’s largest newspaper, and the governor’s recent proposal to redirect those subsidies toward education are clear indications that times are changing – and fast. With the pressure ratcheting-up, can action – and the sure demise of Pennsylvania horseracing – be far behind?
Here are excerpts (full editorial here).
“For 16 years, Pennsylvania has been saddled with an obligation to prop up a flailing horse race industry. Since , the industry has gotten close to $3 billion dollars from … slot machines. That’s a lot of money — about $240 million per year — that should have by now stabilized and improved the sector. It hasn’t. [A]lmost every data point connected to the performance of Pennsylvania racing shows a decline. The number of wagers, the number of races, the number of horses, the purses paid, and the attendance at tracks: all in decline, a trend going back years.
“Layer those problems on top of growing outcry over the treatment and deaths of racehorses around the country. Starting in 2018, for example, a rash of horse deaths at Santa Anita Park in California led one industry commenter to note, ‘Poorly bred, overraced, exhausted horses being whipped toward the finish line is not a sport; it’s an exercise in sadistic exploitation.’
“A report last year by PennLive/Patriot-News revealed that 87 horses died in Pennsylvania in 2018 alone [it’s actually more; see my report]. [W]e have to ask, not for the first time: Why are we subsidizing this?
“Those supporting the industry claim that the money supports agricultural jobs which boosts the state economy, and by funding bigger purses, more people will bet. The reality doesn’t back that up. With so many critical and human problems this state faces, the unquestioning propping up of an industry that has shown no promise of improving is outrageous. That’s why Gov. Wolf gets credit for his latest proposal to use about $200 million of that annual money to fund scholarships for Pennsylvania students to attend Pennsylvania colleges. It’s about time.”
Indeed it is.