KENNETT SQUARE, Pa.—The annual battle to prevent the state of Pennsylvania from raiding more and more money from the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association’s Breeders’ Awards fund may be over for the next four or five years, according to both PHBA President Roger Legg and Racing Commission member Russell Jones.
“Harrisburg took $30 million from the Awards last year,” said Legg at the annual meeting of the PHBA on May 17 at the Kennett Square Golf and Country Club in Kennett Square, Pa. “They understand enough is enough. We’ll lose about what we lost last year, maybe less.”
“We have a chance for stability now,” said Legg. “We can cruise along at this level for three or four years. We can rely on steady awards and purses for the next few years.”
“So breed a lot of horses,” said Legg with a laugh.
“No more money will be takes out of the fund,” said Jones. “The racing industry is on trial. Harrisburg is watching to see if we’re good for the state. We’ve got a four or five year window to prove that he money the state is plowing back into racing is a good expenditure on their part.”
“The problem is that every two years there’s a new group of legislators,” said Jones. “The new legislators want our money. It’s all in how we approach new people and get them educated.”
The breeding and racing industry creates thousands of jobs annually, ranging from those working at stables and on farms to vets, blacksmiths, farmers who provide hay and oats, drivers who move the hay and oats, businesses that sell the tractors and mowers and on and on.
But each new legislator has to be educated to that fact.
LEGG ADMITTED that 2016 had been a bad year.
“The reason is that Act 7 was declared by the Department of Agriculture to be not in sufficient form to allow them to disburse the money (from slots gambling that PHBA gets a percentage of),” said Legg. “That was from February, and we didn’t get it settled until November. Now we’re up to date.”
“The harness horse and thoroughbred people are now one organization,” said Legg. “We’ve established a relationship with the harness horse people, and they’re good.”
“The harness people are good people,” said Jones. There are nine people on the new racing commission, including harness horse and thoroughbred people. “The harness people have good ideas, and they don’t back away from controversy.”
Legg said that there’s been a complete turnover in the PHBA office.
“We now have a young, energetic staff, and we’re getting quality stuff out of that office now,” said Legg. “Brian (Sanfratello, executive secretary) has become a semi-expert at getting things done in Harrisburg. We’re much better at that than we’ve been in the past.”
“In the next few months, there will be additional gambling allowed at bars and airport terminals,” said Legg. “Now they’re saying we might get some money out of that.”
“The state can now test horses for illegal substances, and it can test at a variety of places,” said Jones. “That will take away the image of Pennsylvania being permissive at allowing bad people in the industry.”
“There has been adopted a uniform standard that shows accumulated violations and the number of times people have been caught drugging horses,” said Jones. “That will cover all states, not just Pennsylvania.”
Pennsylvania has been funded with $52,000 for promotion of racing,
“There has to be an atmosphere at race tracks of people having fun,” said Jones. “Promotion is worth nothing unless people at the tracks have a good time.”