05/12/2006 12:00AM

Lack of slots money forces a cut in dates


Penn National Race Course and its horsemen have agreed on a plan to cut the number of live race days each week from four to three beginning on May 30, officials for the track and the Penn National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association said on Friday.

The new schedule, which has been submitted to the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission for its approval, calls for nine-race cards on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights. Penn currently runs Wednesday through Saturday nights.

For the past 12 months, Penn National has contributed $4 million in subsidies to the horsemen's purse account in anticipation of the opening of a slot-machine casino. Because of regulatory delays, however, the casino is not expected to open until next year, and the subsidy has run out, officials said.

According to Todd Mostoller, the executive director of the Penn National HBPA, horsemen agreed to the reduction in race days so that the track's average daily purse distribution remains at $80,000.

"It's the best solution to a bad situation," Mostoller said. "This way we don't have a purse cut, and we can go back to the four-day schedule when the revenues support it."

Penn National continues to hold live racing despite the demolition of its grandstand in April. Mostoller said that horsemen and track officials agreed to the Tuesday-through-Thursday schedule in order to capitalize on the dearth of simulcast signals on Tuesday nights.

"The feeling is that we might be a good fit in the simulcast market on Tuesday night, and since right now the track isn't conducive to live racing from the standpoint of the public, we decided to take a shot," Mostoller said.

The Pennsylvania law legalizing slot machines requires a track to run at least 95 percent of the days that the track ran in 1986 unless the track's horsemen waive the requirement. In Penn National's case, the track will be required to run at least 227 days a year, Mostoller said, when slots are up and running.