April 2016 Issue - page 1

Vol. 23 No. 4
Our 23rd Year
April 2016
LANC., PA 17604
By Suzanne Bush
“Now we don’t have to wor-
ry about the Governor saying that
racing is threatened with closing
because it’s not going to be fund-
ed,” Brian Sanfratello says. “That
will give the breeders and owners
in Pennsylvania a sigh of relief.
We won’t have to keep warning
them of the possibility that racing
will close.”
Sanfratello is Executive
Secretary of Pennsylvania Horse
Breeders Association (PHBA), one
of the groups that had been work-
ing for months with legislators, the
Governor’s office and the Depart-
ment of Agriculture on the outlines
of an expansive plan to reform
Pennsylvania horseracing. On
February 23 Governor Wolf signed
HB941 into law, ending a conten-
tious debate about how to fund
oversight of the racing industry.
The new legislation amends
the Administrative Code of 1929
and repeals the Race Horse Indus-
try ReformAct of 1981. The 1929
code was a wide-ranging effort to
establish standards for executive
and administrative functions in
the state, define the powers and
responsibilities of the Governor
and other administrators, create
guidelines for appointing admin-
istrative officers, etc. A key part of
HB941 dissolved the two Racing
Commissions that were created in
1981 and replaced them with one
Commission that would oversee
Even as horseracing has
changed dramatically in the
past 30 years, there has not
been—until now—compre-
hensive revision of the way
the industry is governed. The
state’s Department of Agriculture
has been struggling to find the
resources to ensure drug-testing
and meaningful oversight of
horseracing. The State Racing
Governor Wolf Signs Racing Reform into Law
Governor Tom Wolf, center, flanked by sponsors Senator Elder Vogel, left, and Representative
Mike Regan, right, signs Pennsylvania House Bill 941 into law as horse industry leaders look on.
The new law restructures the Racing Commission and is the first revision of racing regulations in 30
Picture courtesy of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
Fund was established in 1981 to
provide operating revenue for two
commissions—one for Thorough-
bred racing, the other for Harness
racing—to oversee the industry.
The fund had been collecting
revenue from wagering taxes,
license fees, admission taxes, etc.
But there has been a precipitous
decline in wagering on live racing
in Pennsylvania since 2001.
The resulting funding shortfall
prompted the state Department of
Agriculture to announce in 2015
that it could no longer maintain
the two racing commissions,
and that it could no longer fund
the toxicology lab where blood
samples of race horses are tested
for banned substances. And in
2014 Auditor General Eugene
DePasquale revealed that the De-
partment of Agriculture had over-
billed the State Racing Fund for
at least three years, and that the
Fund was nearly bankrupt. The
legislature stepped in then with a
transfer of $4.2 million from the
Race Horse Development Fund
to rescue the State Racing Fund
from imminent bankruptcy.
Governor Wolf wanted the
stakeholders and the legislature to
revamp the aging funding model,
and enact several reforms that
had been proposed by Senator
Elder Vogel in previous legislative
sessions. Those reforms would shift
some of the regulatory costs—such
as drug-testing—from the state to
the horseracing industry. In 2015
Wolf threatened to shut horseracing
down in the state unless the funding
imbalance was corrected. HB941,
sponsored by Representative Mike
Regan, achieved the reforms long
sought by the Governor and legisla-
tive leaders.
New Commission,
New Rules
The PHBA’s Sanfratel-
lo is optimistic about how the
state will regulate racing go-
ing forward. “Well, I think it’s
something that has been in the
works for a couple of years now,”
he says. “There are going to be
people on the Racing Commis-
sion that are very knowledge-
able in the industry.” The new
nine-member Racing Commis-
sion will have four members
from the racing and breeding in-
dustry—two from the Thorough-
bred and two from Standardbred.
The reform moves the cost
of drug-testing of horses from
the State to the industry. The law
requires random drug testing of
horses entered in races, regardless
of whether the horse is stabled on
the grounds of the racetrack or
shipped in for race day.
The law that established
casino gambling in Pennsylvania
was passed in 2004. The casinos
were built at racetracks, and part
of the rationale for legalizing ca-
sinos was to stimulate the state’s
horseracing industry. Thus, the
2004 law required the casinos to
promote horseracing as well as
their slot machines. Evidence of
actual marketing of horse racing
is hard to find, though. But San-
fratello thinks that will change.
He says that HB941 also renews
the State’s commitment to pro-
moting the industry. “With 941
there’s going to be a percentage
of money put aside for market-
ing the racing industry. Initially
it comes out to approximately
$2.4 million.” He says that the
stakeholders will get together and
strategize about the best ways to
market the industry.
Pennsylvania Secretary of
Agriculture Russell Redding
says that the road from wanting
reform to actually seeing HB941
signed into law was not a smooth
one. “But thanks to the involve-
ment of the stakeholders, we
were able to arrive at a sound
compromise that accomplished
our objectives: strengthening the
integrity of horse and harness
racing in the commonwealth, and
putting in place a financial model
that will allow for the long-term
viability of the State Racing
Clinics, Shows, Camps &
Events Feature! Pages 14 -19
Pennsylvania Equine Council Spring
Newsletter … pgs. 30-31
More frustration for Newlin Township
farm owners … pg. 4
Perpetrators who shot mare with 130
paintballs sought .. pg. 10
…and much more!
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