Once again, Governor Wolf of Pennsylvania has submitted a budget that would strip some $200 million in annual corporate welfare from that state’s horseracing industry and redirect it where it belongs: education. (Last year, the governor proposed the same, but then covid happened.) The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Wood took dead aim at the issue this week (full article). Here are some highlights:
“Horse racing in the state is propped up by about $230 million a year from a tax on casino slot machine revenues. Since the financing began in 2004, Pennsylvania horsemen have collected about $3 billion.
“In the state, about 95% of the purse money is derived from slot machines. The rest [a relative pittance] comes from bets at the tracks.
“In Pennsylvania, the audience for racing has dwindled to the point where it’s no longer included in the gaming commission’s annual report. In 2018, the average Pennsylvania race drew only about 650 people.”
But my favorite passage came after an industry stakeholder’s claim that Wolf’s proposal “would absolutely destroy the horse racing industry and the more than 20,000 jobs that are associated with it.” Ah yes, the jobs – about the only argument left for this sad, desperate industry. Of course, as I’ve said often these jobs numbers are so wildly inconsistent that I’m convinced they’re pulled out of thin air. Anyhow, here is what Mr. Wood wrote in response:
“Racing directly supports about 7,400 jobs, according to a 2018 report paid for by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. That report said about 8,000 more jobs are affected by the racing industry. That’s among a Pennsylvania workforce of about six million.” In other words, racing-related jobs are statistically insignificant. Even if we were to give them the supposed jobs “affected by racing,” we’re talking about .2% of the workforce. Not two percent. Point two percent.
So what if the doomsayers prove prophetic and PA Racing folds without its lifeline? Well, those six tracks are sitting on (obviously) valuable real estate, real estate that can and will be redeveloped, creating new (better) jobs and increased tax revenues – not to mention, vastly improved landscapes. Which brings to mind another of this industry’s risible defenses, to wit: Horseracing, as the Pennsylvania Equine Coalition puts it, “preserves hundreds of thousands of acres of open space.” Yes, save those ugly, dirty, seedy racetracks in the name of “open spaces.” As I said, sad and desperate.