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Pennsylvania sees huge purse hikes

Mar 11, 2003 5:02 AM

If Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell is successful in guiding his racetrack slots bill through the legislature, it means a huge increase in horsemen’s purses. In fact, it has been estimated that purses at Philadelphia Park will increase from about $130,000 to $425,000 a day.

"Grossly inadequate," charged Mike Ballezzi, executive director of the Pennsylvania horsemen’s association. He said that it amounted to 16% of the expected gaming revenue to be generated by the slot machines. A more adequate split, he said, would be somewhere between 25% and 30% of gross gaming revenues.

Obviously, track officials disagreed. Hal Handel, who runs Philadelphia Park for privately-held Greenwood Racing, noted that the projection would place purses at Philadelphia Park at "the highest of any year-round, self-contained circuit in North America."

He added that purses in Delaware and in Ontario, Canada, where slots are installed at racetracks, receive 10% of slots revenues while in West Virginia, the percentage is 15.5%.

"This makes the case they (the horsemen) would have the best deal in the U.S. for purses from gaming."

At Penn National Race Course, operated by Penn National Gaming Inc. (PENN), officials said lawmakers had spoken with horsemen at that track and found "they are all supportive of this bill."

Also expected to benefit from the slots legislation is Magna Entertainment Inc. (MECA), operators of The Meadows harness track.