Washington, PA --- The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association announced today that purses will decrease by 10 percent at The Meadows Racetrack and Casino starting Feb. 1. The MSOA represents owners, trainers and drivers of Standardbred horses racing at The Meadows, which is located near Washington, Pa.
This measure was deemed necessary due to the negative impact of the 4.6 percent decrease ($6.36 million) in funds from the state's slot handle during the first half of the Commonwealth’s fiscal year -- from July 1, 2012 through Dec. 31, 2012. In addition, $5 million was diverted from the Race Horse Development Fund to fund the Pennsylvania Farm Show and County Fairs, a move approved as part of the state budget.
“This is disappointing news for our horsemen, naturally,” said Rich Gillock, MSOA president. “However, we are hopeful that the MSOA and the Pennsylvania Equine Coalition will be successful in getting all or a portion of the money back that was removed from the Race Horse Development Fund three years ago as part of a budget adjustment. We took a 17 percent reduction at that time. We will continue working toward that goal.”
The 17 percent diversion of funding from the Race Horse Development Fund to the state’s General Fund was a stop gap effort to address some of the state’s budgetary shortfalls. The racing and breeding industry agreed to the legislature’s diversion of the funds -- which was set to last for a limited period of four years -- to help address the economic challenges facing state government. The diversion is scheduled to sunset on June 30.
“Restoring the full 17 percent to the Race Horse Development Fund will offset the loss of funding we are experiencing as a result of increased gaming competition, which includes new casinos in both Pennsylvania and neighboring states,” said Pete Peterson, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Equine Coalition. “When purse revenues decrease, it creates a ripple effect throughout the industry. Veterinarians, blacksmiths, trainers, drivers, grooms and jockeys all earn less. Owners also are forced to reduce their expenses, which includes feed provided by Pennsylvania farmers and riding equipment provided by local small businesses.”
Peterson said that he expected other Pennsylvania tracks to follow suit with purse decreases of their own.
“The fund has taken an $11 million hit already this year, and that is likely to increase in the coming months,” said Peterson. “If the money is not there, the only responsible thing to do is cut the purses. For many in the industry, the hope is that this is only a short-term hit until the funding is restored in the budget. The feeling is that they may be able to weather the next few months, but beyond that, all bets are off.”
The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition is a statewide group representing more than 10,000 owners and trainers of the horse racing 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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Western Fair closed Wednesday morning for training