07/01/2003 11:00PM

Penn. horsemen seek license


The Pennsylvania Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has joined the long list of suitors for the last Thoroughbred racing license in the state with a project promising $1 million a day in purses.

On July 1, the group filed an application with the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission for a $400 million racetrack, retail mall, and hotel and convention center, the ninth application to be filed so far. The applicants have been drawn to the prospect of the legalization of slot-machine gambling at racetracks by the Pennsylvania Legislature.

Joe Santanna, a board member of the horsemen's group and the president of the subsidiary that would own the racetrack, said that all profits from slot machines would be reinvested in purses, for an estimated total of $100 million in purses a year after three years.

Bradbury and Dolphin, a Philadelphia investment banking company, has agreed to provide financing for the project, Santanna said. The horsemen have also reached an agreement "in principle" with Foxwoods Gaming and Resorts to manage the slots operation, according to Santanna.

The PHBPA has spent $1,000 developing the plan so far, Santanna said, including an option to purchase 485 acres of land just over the New Jersey border near Easton, where the track would be located.

The application is likely to be criticized by other companies seeking the final license because of the horsemen's inexperience in construction projects and operating a racetrack. But Santanna said those criticisms should be dismissed.

"We could create something here that is revolutionary," Santanna said. "Who else has this concept?

"And I think we know more about horse racing than anyone else at a racetrack anywhere."