Clock ticking to possible shutdown of horse tracks

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Horse racetracks across the state could fall silent as early as next month.

“When it comes to the state racing fund, the state created this problem,” Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Friday.

For years the state has been taking money from the State Racing Fund. Money in that fund is raised through a tax on bets placed at the track and pays for safety and lab operations. Last year the racing industry spent about $20 million; it raised only about $14 million.

“There is some disagreement on the financial stability of racing, as well as the solutions to fix that. That is our task right now,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said.

Senate Bill 352, which already passed the Senate, would allow the racing industry to tap into the Race Horse Development fund to cover some of its operating costs, but not everyone is on board with that idea, including some of the 20,000 horseman in the state.

“There are a number of solutions on the table. There are a lot of different opinions from an industry standpoint between operators, horseman and the commonwealth, but we will solve our differences and move forward,” said Todd Mostoller, executive director of the Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

“I can tell you that there is more agreement today than there was yesterday in terms of what the financial issues are, and there is some agreement on what the potential fix fixes are,” Redding said.

If an agreement is not met by next Friday, a notice of suspension will be delivered to horse tracks across the state and they will shut down 30 days later.

“Everyone needs to sit down and calmly work this out because the industry is important to Pennsylvania, and we need to find a way to make sure it does not get shut down,” DePasquale said.

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