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Horse Racing Industry Got $242 Million From Slot Machines In 2014

The Pennsylvania horse racing industry received more than $242 million from slot machine revenue in 2014, but interest in the sport is waning, according to an annual report released Tuesday by the Gaming Control Board.

Last year, 11 percent of the $2.3 billion generated by slot machines went to the Pennsylvania Horse Development Fund, which establishes racing prizes, in-state breeding incentives, as well as health and pension benefits for horsemen and their families.

Director of Racetrack Gaming for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Kevin Kile said this investment from the state benefits everyone from jockeys to racetrack concession workers.

“This participation has been very beneficial for the commonwealth as all these individuals invest directly into the economy, and it supports over 10,000 jobs here in Pennsylvania,” Kile said.

Last year, 827,048 people visited Pennsylvania tracks, a 3 percent increase from 2013.

However, the amount of money wagered at Pennsylvania tracks has fallen. According to the report, $765 million was wagered on 11,426 races last year. That’s a 5.3 percent decrease in wagers from the year before.

Kile said the drop in wagers mirrors a national movement.

“The decrease in live racing handle (betting) here in Pennsylvania is on par with a national trend, which is seeing the same type of decrease,” he said.

There was also a drop in in-state export betting — that’s when racing casinos broadcast their races to other gaming facilities across the state. In 2014, more than $29 million was wagered by in-state exporting, a drop of nearly $10 million over the last five years.

Advances in technology, along with the availability of smartphone applications and video games have made people less interested in the sport, Kile said.

“There’s clearly other forms of entertainment for the general public to partake in,” he said. “Horse racing is a very historically significant industry; however, nowadays there are alternate forms of entertainment, such as slot machines [and] table games.”

The Erie, PA native has been a fellow in the WESA news department since May 2013. Having earned a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Duquesne University, he is now pursuing an M.A. in multi-media management. Michael describes his career aspiration as "I want to do it all in journalism."