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HARRISBURG, Pa.–Citing a decline in wages placed on live horse racing in Pennsylvania, the state Department of Agriculture said Thursday unless action is taken the fate of horse racing in Pennsylvania is uncertain.
The 112 day budget impasse has also blocked new money from flowing into the state racing fund. The fund pays for licensing, safety measures, staffing of an equine laboratory and drug-testing of horses, among other things. It gets funded through a tax on horse wagers, which have been steadily declining for years.
The Auditor General’s office said the state’s horse racing industry may begin to shut down next week due to depleted funds.
There has been a 71 percent decline in wagers placed on live horse racing since 2001, according to Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. The declining numbers means there has been less revenue for the oversight of the horse racing industry.
Redding said the department is looking for sustainable solutions for the long-term health of the racing in Pennsylvania. But he suggested he’s not looking for a quick fix to the massive structural deficit in the racing fund.
“We can’t keep putting band aids on it in the form of one-time transfers from other funds, but this is a problem that is best addressed with surgery,” Redding said in a statement. “I am optimistic we can come together and compromise on a sustainable financial fix that also strengthens the integrity and governance of the industry.”
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale warned in June 2014 about the impending shutdown for the horse racing industry. His audit of the State Racing Fund found the Department of Agriculture had overbilled the fund to cover budget shortfalls.
“Shutting down the horse racing industry would be devastating to the 500 horse breeders in Pennsylvania and the 23,000 people who are supported by the racing industry,” said DePasquale in a statement.
DePasquale is urging lawmakers to act swiftly on legislation that would rescue the flailing racing fund.
The horse racing industry generates $1.6 billion in annual economic activity in Pennsylvania.