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Tuesday, May 26, 2020
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Pennsylvania lags behind neighboring states in getting a share from legalized sports betting for horsemen

KENNETT SQUARE, Pa--The Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association lags far behind horsemen in neighboring states in getting a share of income from what many expect to be a huge infusion of gambling money from recently legalized sports betting.

Some estimates put the amount of sports betting now going on on the black market at $150 billion a year, and states hope that legalized sports betting will bring that revenue into their pockets.

Penn NationalBut, under Pennsylvania's current law on sports betting, horsemen won't see a penny of that revenue, which could have a huge negative effect on Pennsylvania horse racing and breeders' awards.

PHBA Executive Secretary Brian Sanfrantello said that unless Pennsylvania casinos, which want the state's takeout lowered, get the law reopened that the PHBA couldn't do anything to get horsemen a piece of the action.

At the moment, it looks doubtful that horsemen will benefit from sports gambling, except on horse racing, in the state, while horsemen in Delaware and New Jersey will get a share of the pie.


SPORTS BETTING is already up and running in Delaware, and horsemen in that state are getting a percentage of the state's takeout.

New Jersey anticipated the decision and moved to quickly take advantage of it, with Monmouth Park in the forefront of establishing new betting parlors in the hopes that it will help horse racing in the state, which has been in trouble since the state took away funding.

It was first announced that legal sports betting would begin in New Jersey over Memorial Day weekend, but that has now been postponed until Gov. Phil Murphy signs a new law that the New Jersey Legislature passed on June 7.

Murphy has 45 days to sign or veto the bill, or it will automatically turn into law.

According to Monmouth officials, as of now horsemen get a percentage of the state's take, but horsemen will have to wait to see if that remains true after Murphy decides to sign or veto the new law.

According to the New York Times, the New Jersey law imposes an 8.5 percent tax on in-person wagers but a 13 percent tax on bets made online or on mobile devices, In-person  bets also carry a 1.25 percent fee to help communities where venues are placed.

Some lawmakers have estimated that wagering could yield as much as $100,000 million in the first year, and, if that turns out to be the case, New Jersey could reap as much as $10,000 million, with perhaps as much as 5 percent of that going to horsemen.

New Jersey state treasurer Elizabeth Muoio has put the estimate much lower, at $13 million, but that still would put the state's share at about 1.3 million.

At the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association on May 23, President Roger Legg said that spots betting in the state could have an adverse affect on horse racing.

But it also became apparent during the meeting that the PHBA seems to have done little to date for dealing with sports betting in the state, which the legislature passed last fall as a part of the budget.

Sports betting in Pennsylvania could have a huge negative affect on breeders awards if that wagering takes away from the amount bet on horse racing unless some percentage of sports wagering monies are assigned to horse racing's, and thus breeders awards, income.

The Supreme Court on May 14 struck down a 1992 federal law that effectively banned commercial sports betting in most states., but it appears that Pennsylvania is far behind neighboring states in trying to implement sports betting, which could bring millions into the state.

The PHBA apparently has done little to try to get a percentage of the sports betting dollars should sports betting come to Pennsylvania.

"Sports betting appears to be more of a threat to our industry," said Legg. "It will cut into the handle, and we're not entitled to any part of the sports betting handle. That's something we'll have to deal with."


"IT'S TOO EARLY to tell when it's going to start in Pennsylvania," said PHBA Executive Secretary Brian Sanfrantello in a telephone interview prior to the annual meeting. "There's still a lot to be decided in Pennsylvania before it's rolled out."

"There's a $10 million licensing fee that has to be paid by any casino that wants sports betting," said Sanfrantello. "The state receives 36 percent of whatever sports betting brings in. I do not think we get a portion of that."

In an interview on June 11, Sanfrantello said that he did not know the status of the Pennsylvania bill, but that he knew that the casinos would like to see the states' takeout reduced.

He said that, as of now, horsemen do not get a percentage of the state's takeout from sports betting.

"We will continue to try to get a portion of the state's takeout, but if the casinos get the law opened, all our people have been advised to move on it," said Sanfrantello.

Sanfrantello was skeptical about how much money legalized betting would contribute to the states coffers, saying that people are used to betting through Las Vegas or illegally.

But if racetracks and breeders' awards flourish  in neighboring states, Pennsylvania could see trainers and breeders fleeing the state.

According to USA Today, legislatures in about 20 states put forward bills in anticipation of the repeal, and West Virginia was one of the first to sign such legislation into law.

The state passed the West Virginia Lottery Sports Wagering Act in March, which clears the way to allow sports wagering at five racetracks' casinos.

A decade ago, Delaware led a fight, against many of the same organizations that New Jersey did, to allow sports betting.

After the act's repeal, Delaware gov. John Carney said in a statement that "full-scale sports gaming could be available at Delaware's casino before the end of June."

It was in fact available in early June, and Carney placed the first bet.

The Horse of Delaware Valley

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