Saving horse racing from declining wagers

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Horse racing is a billion dollar business, but more and more people seem to be hedging their bets.

Racetrack wagers have been in a steady decline since 2001.

A state commission is betting on turning around revenue at the track to help the Pennsylvania Ag industry.

Wagers are off pace at the races, and they're way off since state gaming changed more than a decade ago.

Meadows standardbred association executive director Kim Hankins said "the only wagering opportunities were lottery and horse racing. so when you take the opportunity to set casinos on each site of every race track obviously we're going to get less money."

The sport itself also was at risk in Pennsylvania as the state didn't have enough money to regulate horse and harness racing, as well as run the state's drug testing lab.

"We were glad to help out because the deficit was there and they were a regulatory body above us, so we were glad to help out, but yes, we've spent over $10 million in the last three years, helping keep the commission going," Hankins said.

The first hurdle in getting the billion dollar business back on track begins at the Department of Agriculture with the first meeting of the newly formed Pennsylvania horse racing commission.

"For the horsemen, and breeders in Pennsylvania, there were previously two commissions, one for thoroughbred, and one for harness, the primary act of Act 7 was to combine those two commissions for more transparency, and more unity in the actual horse racing industry," Hankins said.

A scandal involving two Penn National employees, along with four trainers and four veterinarians, surely didn't bring the kind of attention managers of the sport were hoping for.

The state prosecuted those ten people for fixing races by giving horses a performance enhancing cocktail.

"There's insider trading on the Nasdaq, and they flushed those people out, and the same with ours. That's part of what this commission's responsibility is for, is to maintain the integrity for the patrons that do bet on racing," Hankins said.

The state plans to spend money to promote racing but saving the industry isn't just about a day at the races but the year-round support for Pennsylvania agriculture.

"A big portion of what we race for goes to veterinarians, hay, feed stores, feed suppliers, farriers, property owners, property taxes for the breeders, it all goes back i to agriculture," Hankins said. "

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.