ShareThis Page

Subsidizing horse racing: Time to end fund's run

| Tuesday, May 9, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Eric Goodell, 42, of Breinigsville, Lehigh County, maneuvers in the sulky as he drives Spaghetti Eddie in the second race at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino in North Strabane on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. Spaghetti Eddie is owned by Winchester Baye Acres Inc. in Powell, Ohio.

With Pennsylvania's fiscal shortfall perhaps topping $1 billion, the GOP-controlled House's budget would eliminate $56 million-plus in corporate welfare from general fund spending. But with overall corporate-welfare spending at $800 million, cuts also should be made beyond the general fund. The $250 million Race Horse Development Fund is an obvious target.

The fund “primarily finances purses (prizes) for horse races,” notes Commonwealth Foundation senior policy analyst Bob Dick. One reason to eliminate it — as the Tribune-Review reported in September 2015 — is how much of that prize money benefits out-of-state horse owners, including Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the United Arab Emirates' billionaire vice president and prime minister. The state's Independent Fiscal Office has since “found nearly 30 percent of all prize money was spent outside of Pennsylvania,” Mr. Dick says.

All that corporate welfare hasn't done much for Pennsylvania's horse racing industry. A state Gaming Control Board report shows it “continues to struggle,” according to Dick, with “attendance, gross terminal revenue, and taxable handle (wagers) … all down from 2015.”

Horse racing's constant need for public subsidies suggests it has problems that no amount of money from Harrisburg can fix. It's not showing much return on Pennsylvania's prize-money “investment.” And why prop up this industry when so many others struggle?

It's time for the Race Horse Development Fund to cross the finish line — permanently.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.