Horse Racing Industry Gets $198M Taxpayer Subsidy

by | Jan 17, 2024 | News

(The Center Square) — Pennsylvania’s horse racing industry saw a dip in state subsidies for 2023 — but only a minor one.

It still remains one of the largest taxpayer-supported equine programs in America.

Subsidies for horse-racing has a long tradition in the commonwealth: Since 2004, more than $3.5 billion in taxpayer money has flown toward the equine sport, as The Center Square previously reported.

The latest data shows that this tradition continues. The Independent Fiscal Office noted that $198 millionwent to the horse racing industry in fiscal year 2022-2023, an $8 million decline from last year.

That decline, though, is expected to reverse in the near future.

“This fund supports the Pennsylvania horse racing industry through purse prizes, racehorse award programs and horsemen’s organizations,” the IFO noted. “Final distributions are based on racing activity and revenues and are projected to total $221.4 million in the current fiscal year.”

Few stats can rival the commonwealth’s horse subsidies. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed sending about $455 million annually to the industry, but most other states have dramatically smaller tax transfers.

The IFO report notes that horse racing subsidies fell under the umbrella of economic development projects. The lion’s share of those funds, though, go toward horse racing.

That beats out the $167 million for the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, $51 million for the Gaming, Economic Development, and Tourism Fund, and $49 million for the Business in Our Sites program. The IFO projects that the Race Horse Development Fund will be the only program of those to see significant growth in 2023-2024.

The vast majority of prize money in horse races come from taxpayer subsidies. The revenue gets generated through a tax on casino slot machines, a deal made decades ago to expand legalized gambling in Pennsylvania.

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