Governor Tom Corbett's proposed $72 million raid on the Race Horse Development Fund for 2012, together with a planned $47 million transfer to the state's general fund, would make it virtually impossible to continue stakes racing at 2011 levels according to the heads of the state's standardbred harness racing horsemen's organizations.
"If the budget passes as proposed, we will go into survival mode," said Richard Gillock, president of the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association. "That means everything will be on the table -even the Adios - when considering necessary reductions or cuts."
Sam Beegle, president of the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen's Association, echoed his sentiments. "We're issuing a joint statement because we want people to understand how serious this situation is," he said. "It's a total reduction of around $120 million to the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund. With that much of a loss, we won't have a choice. Stakes will be drastically reduced, and some may have to be eliminated entirely. There will be no way to continue with business as usual."
Both the MSOA and PHHA are urging their members, along with anyone involved in PA harness racing, to contact their elected officials to oppose any further reduction of the race Horse Development Fund here via this link.
Gillock said while the MSOA and PHHA continue to work together to prevent this from happening, the outlook is uncertain. "Times are desperate in Pennsylvania and legislators are prone to do shortsighted things to balance the budget. There is no question we are in an uphill fight. The Governor is pretending these are public monies when in fact they are anything but."
Both Gillock and Beegle agree that the ultimate consequence will be a massive loss of jobs. "It's simple logic. Purses are what owners use to make investments in Pennsylvania, buy horses, and pay their employees," said Beegle. "Fewer purse dollars equals less money for payroll. Owners will fire people, or stop hiring, and take their dollars to other states instead of Pennsylvania."