Gambling on slot machines in Pennsylvania provided almost a quarter billion dollars in subsidies to the horse racing industry in 2009, but betting at racetracks still declined. Those in the racing business say the casino money is preserving an industry that is fighting to survive.
Racetracks were facing closure when casino gambling was approved in Pennsylvania, but now with bigger prize money fueled by casino cash the tracks have stabilized. Michael Ballezzi is Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association. He says horsemen are also benefitting from the casinos.
“They now have total health insurance provided by slot revenue, they have pensions, hospital care, doctor care, eyeglasses where they never had that in the past,” Ballezzi said.
Delaware was the first state in the region to put slot machines at racetracks. Madeline Locke, President of the the Delaware Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association, says now they have to work harder to attract gamblers.
“We’ve seen a bit of a backlash as far as people gambling falling off a little bit so I think all of us are going to be faced with that challenge at some point,” Locke said.
At Parx in Bensalem, Ballezzi says more people are betting on horses since poker and table games were moved to the grandstand area where gamblers can see the racing.