10/11/2009 11:00PM

Slots cut to impact Pennsylvania horsemen


Pennsylvania legislators have passed a budget that reduces the amount of money that horsemen receive from slot machines at the state's casinos, a move that will likely cost horsemen at least $30 million in subsidies this year.

Under the budget, horsemen will receive 10 percent of the gross revenue from slot machines, down from 12 percent. The budget was passed on Friday night, 101 days late, and includes dozens of measures to reduce the costs of state government and raise extra revenues in order to deal with a projected budget deficit for the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

In addition, legislators are working on a bill that would allow casinos in the state to offer table games such as blackjack, poker, and roulette. The bill passed in the Senate on Friday and is expected to come up for a vote in the House on Monday or Tuesday.

According to figures from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, horsemen at the state's three Thoroughbred tracks and three harness tracks received $194 million in subsidies from slot machines in 2008, when gross revenue from the machines was $1.6 billion. Eighty percent of the revenue went directly to purse subsidies, while 16 percent went to breeders awards and 4 percent to the state's horsemen's organization for health and pension fund benefits.

Mike Ballezzi, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said in a statement released prior to the budget passage that horsemen would need to cut $8 million from existing purse levels at Philadelphia Park to make up for the shortfall if the horsemen's share was reduced.