Governor Wolf Again Proposes to Strip Racing’s Corporate Welfare; Moral Progress Beckons

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.

Let your voices be heard. Tell PA legislators you support the governor’s proposal.
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And, to reinforce his enlightened position, Governor Wolf’s contact

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  1. Just for perspective, that’s about 2000 new teachers or health care for 20,000 people every year or food for 200,000 hungry children. The most stunning part, the part not in the article, is that the majority of the purse money goes to owners that don’t even live in PA. The state taxes casino wagers made by residents and sends the money elsewhere.

  2. Just as unjustifiable as horse and dog racing in Ireland where tracks are closing quicker than a company hit by Covid 19. The members of the Irish Parliament who are in the back pockets of hunting and racing supporters move tax revenues meant for education, welfare and housing into the pockets of the very people who are unable to attract the public to its tracks.
    Money destined for good social causes are shuffled off to failing and cruel commercial ends. Totally unjustified.

  3. The most depressing thing about your comments Alan, is that nobody in the State ever investigates and challenges the immoral and probably illegal financial dealings. Does nobody care what happens to their hard earned money?

    •…we do care day

      A simple Google search of pa horse racing, penn national, parx along with the words corruption or scandals will show the consistent and ongoing abuse of racehorses in pa, along with the clear inability, or unwillingness to clean up this ongoing mess…race fixing, untreated injured animals on the backside, lack of ambulances in training ( twice) the vets the pled out in the Penn FBI deal still licensed to practice, one even became a pa racehorse breeder imagine that. The clear showing of conflicts of interest by allowing people on the racing boards and the HBpa to run their own horses at the very tracks they are in charge of and the severe lack of penalties to go along with all of this.

      I will also mention it’s hard for me to believe the racing industry when they say protecting the wide open spaces of pa. In the past year I believe 700 dairy farms closed down in the state and numerous amounts of farmland have been developed into large warehouses the past few years just for example, so to me it’s not they want to preserve all open spaces and farm land just the ones that are beneficial to their industry.

  4. A huge shoutout to you Patrick for posting this.
    I called Gov. Wolf’s office and expressed my support for this Bill to pass.
    They were cordial and said they like to hear from people.
    I also wrote them on their comment form.
    Further to all the facts stated herein a study of PA tracks (and most others) show that the biggest stake races with the most money are so by non-resident owners and trainers.
    None of that money stays in the community.
    It’s basically theft, albeit legal, from cash-strapped state funds.
    Also, out of that 0.2% jobs many of them are foreign workers classified under agricultural work permits!
    Not sure exactly how many, but in large racing stables it’s high.
    There are no plausible reasons to keep this morally deprived killing business going with public funds or by raiding the public coffers and casino profits – none.
    Thank-you Gov. Wolf and hopefully many more politicians will turn the lightbulb on in their head.
    It’s also going to take everyday people in their respective geographic states to voice their concerns about this money and use it for education instead.

  5. The way I interpreted the “wide open spaces” concept was not the racetracks. The way I understood their claim on “wide open spaces” to be is/was the farms where horses are kept for breeding, especially the broodmares and the foals.
    Whatever the number of Acres of “wide open spaces” in the State of Pennsylvania is I do not know. However, there are many other ways to use “wide open spaces” and, therefore, keep these horse farms as “wide open spaces.” The horse breeders could stay in farming by growing VEGETABLE CROPS instead of FOAL CROPS. It really is possible and every community could and would benefit greatly by having FRESH, HOMEGROWN and preferably ORGANIC VEGETABLES grown in “wide open spaces.”
    Community Supported Agriculture has been around for some years now.

  6. It seems evident that the relationship between horse racing and politicians is a quid pro quo.
    The politicians agree to waste millions on horse racing in exchange for large political donations directly into their pockets.
    In this equation, it’s our education, children and taxpayers that get ripped-off and have been since 2004.
    Of course the racehorses are the biggest losers as Kill List after Kill List shows.
    I often think about Gov. Cuomo of New York State who continues to bail out this dying industry every year knowing full well that it’s solely dependent on handouts and those needs increase with every year that the declines increase.
    For example, about 5 years ago he bailed out Finger Lakes with millions that should have went to the public coffers.
    Then there’s Aqueduct – both tracks are a pathetic eyesore that does nothing for the communities.
    Yet, he continues to bail out horse racing at any cost when that money should be put into the public coffers for education and community essential services.
    It’s time to vote out Gov. Cuomo and put a politicians in there who will stop all funding to horse racing.

  7. If just one governor has the courage to go forward with this..perhaps others will see the light and follow suit.

    • Nancy, that is what I am hoping also. At the same time, I wonder if that is even relevant for sure. In Idaho, there is an organization called Treasure Valley Racing Association that still has horseracing at certain County Fairs located in the southern part of the state even though there are no government subsidies to horseracing in Idaho. Of course, the number of racing days and the numbers of horses exploited and killed by racing is on a MUCH smaller scale than it would be with government subsidies.

  8. Gulfstream….Born Again, Baby filly,vanned off from the 9th race. Chart caller, says the proverbial “bad step”. This whole corny thing (horse racing),is bullshit.

    • Plus, disgusting gate carnage at Tampa in the 5th. I guess with the Super Bowl there, the Florida tracks are trying to take full advantage of all the horse-killing action they can generate. I mean, why bet on a REAL sport, when the only SURE THING is that at least one thoroughbred will die today?

      • But, realistically, when has safety ever been a true concern among horseracing participants??? It’s a morbid business.

      • She wasn’t even in the screen shot Nancy. I just knew immediately the way the announcer said it. The dear baby girl was two days away from her birthday. Giant’s Causeway family too. 😢

        • Born Again went through the OBS 2yo in training sale last year in April. Those under tack shows with these babies are brutal, and it really seems to effect their longevity and soundness. So many in the racing industry oppose those shows and yet, they still have them.

          • The 2 y.o in training sales are brutal on the babies who are forced to endure them.
            While some in horse racing oppose them most uphold the system that is set-up to qualify for the Derby and that’s why it has never changed nor will ever change.
            A racehorse must be 3 years old to run in the Derby and has to obtain points that comprise earnings and kind of races they run in which is mostly stake races.
            This combination is mandatory to gain their place in the starting gate on Derby Day so the majority of earnings must come from their 2 year old racing days.
            The horse racing business is not congruous with their well-being – never has or will be.

          • Marie, that was my first thought. Those under tack shows are pure mf’ing EVIL. It’s like torturing a newborn.

  9. Is there finally light – some light – at the end of a long dark tunnel for the thousands of racehorses who were killed and continue to die on Pennsylvania tracks?
    Gov. Wolf is going full stream ahead with the Nellie Bly Scholarship program!
    “The scholarships benefiting 44,000 students would be funded by repurposing $199 million in slot machine revenue that is directed to the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Trust Fund. Approximately 80 percent of the revenue goes to purses for horse owners, many of whom are from other states or countries. The fund has provided more than $3 billion over 16 years to subsidize the single private industry, which should be ready to support itself in a free-market capitalist economy.
    This example should be common practice in every single state in this country and every single politician should be doing the same thing.
    The “horsemen groups” AKA HBPA explicitly stated that if this goes through it will essentially end horse racing in Pennsylvania.
    I’ll get out my Kleenex, but will make sure that Python Pat gets offered a job scrubbing toilets instead of killing racehorses since it will require minimum retraining.
    All the racehorses she and others have maimed and killed will finally get their just desserts.

    • Here’s a big BOO HOO to the woman horse trainer that said on video that if the government subsidies are stopped in Pennsylvania, she will have to sell her house and move back to Ohio.
      There are a lot of people who don’t have a house to sell in the first place, have food insecurities, are unemployed or underemployed, have debt, in addition to student loan debt and may not be able to have housing.

  10. Patrick, I don’t know if you’ve seen this article because I realize that you’re so busy just keeping up with all the Kill Lists so I’m posting it anyways:
    Great article in a MAINSTREAM newspaper that disseminates information to lots of PA residents who would not otherwise know about this – progress.
    Please folks keep writing politicians showing support for this kind of proposal.
    Hopefully, it will get other politicians on board to do the same thing.
    Keep the “horsemen groups” fingers out of our public coffers and casino profits.

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