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Project job losses of 10,000 to 15,000 due to $72 million raid of Race Horse Development Fund

March 5, 2012, HARRISBURG, PA – The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition, a statewide group representing more than 10,000 trainers, owners and breeders of the horseracing industry in Pennsylvania, today called on Governor Tom Corbett and Agriculture Secretary George Greig to stick to the facts when discussing the Governor’s proposed raid of the Race Horse Development Fund of $72 million annually.

In an interview Thursday with PCN, Secretary Greig, who admitted in May 2011 that “I don’t know much about the horse and harness racing part of agriculture,” made a number of inaccurate claims about the Race Horse Development Fund that demonstrated an alarming lack of understanding of the program. Greig incorrectly stated that the funds being transferred from the Race Horse Development Fund to other programs are “just surplus funds that are in an account” and that the program was “generating an excess of funding” that “exceeded the realm of what they thought it was going to produce.” In an interview Tuesday with Denny Logan of WINK 104 in Harrisburg, Governor Corbett made similar claims, saying there would be an “abundant” amount of money left over for purses, prompting the radio host to tell him that was a “mischaracterization of reality.”

“Either Secretary Greig and Governor Corbett are being disingenuous with Pennsylvanians or they truly do not understand how the Race Horse Development Fund or the horse racing and breeding industries in the state operate,” said Salvatore M. DeBunda, President of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. “Estimates prepared at the time of the passage of Act 71 in 2004 -- which established the Race Horse Development Fund to create a robust horse racing and breeding industry in Pennsylvania -- projected weekly receipts to the fund of between $4.4 million at the low point and $6.2 million at the peak. We are currently at about $4.5 million per week over the course of the past 9 weeks. This is in no way, shape or form a surplus or excess funding and is actually in the very low range of projections.”

Based upon Governor Corbett’s own budget figures, funds available to the horse racing and breeding industry for the 2012-2013 fiscal year will drop to $3.2 million per week after the diversion of an already planned $49 million to the general fund and Governor Corbett’s proposal to transfer an additional $72 million to fund other programs. This would leave funding 30 percent below what was projected to be available to the industry at the Race Horse Development Fund’s lowest point.

The Equine Coalition also took issue with what they said are overly optimistic projected receipts for the Race Horse Development Fund, noting that receipts to the fund do not increase just because statewide slots revenues increase. In reality, the receipts to the Race Horse Development Fund are calculated based upon the slot revenues at the host racetrack which can be negatively impacted by competition within those facilities, such as table games, from competition from other casinos in Pennsylvania, and from casinos in neighboring states.

Governor Corbett’s claim that the horse racing and breeding industries “will be able to survive” also demonstrates a profound lack of concern about the tremendous job losses that will occur in the industry should his cuts be approved by the legislature.

“For a budget address that was in large part focused on jobs and the economy, Governor Corbett seems to have little concern about the 10,000 to 15,000 Pennsylvania jobs that could be lost as a result of these cuts,” said Kim Hankins, Executive Director of the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association. “Horse owners, trainers, breeders and others came to Pennsylvania and started businesses here with the expectation that breeders awards and purses would be at a level where they could make a return on their investment. These cuts would mean Pennsylvania will no longer be competitive and we will see an exodus of jobs to neighboring states, which are actually taking steps to increase funds available to the industry. At the same time, all of the ancillary and support businesses that service the racing and breeding industries in Pennsylvania will take a hit, including farmers who supply feed, veterinarians who care for the horses, drivers, equipment suppliers, and horse farms who stable the horses. The ripple effect throughout the agriculture industry will be devastating.”

The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition is a statewide group representing more than 10,000 owners, trainers, and breeders of the horseracing industry in Pennsylvania. Members of the coalition include the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association, the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, the Standardbred Breeders Association of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association, and the Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association.

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