Posted on: February 5, 2021, 09:22h. 

Last updated on: February 5, 2021, 09:23h.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) wants to redirect casino tax revenue from state horsemen into a college tuition assistance fund.

Pennsylvania casinos horsemen gaming
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf says the state should bet on kids, not horsemen, and move gaming money allocated for horse racing to college tuition assistance. Naturally, horsemen deeply oppose such an effort. (Image: AP)

Wolf gave his 2021 budget address this week, and while he didn’t specifically mention reallocating tax money generated by casinos, a statement on his administration’s website did.

“The governor is proposing a $199 million plan to develop the Nellie Bly Tuition Program by repurposing existing dollars that are right now flowing into the Horse Racing Development Fund,” Wolf’s 2021 Legislative Plan explains.

Wolf’s Nellie Bly Tuition Program would provide financial assistance to full-time students enrolled in the state higher education system, with priority given to undergrads pursuing careers in education and health care.

“In exchange, students agree to stay in Pennsylvania after graduation for the same number of years for which they receive financial assistance through the program,” Wolf’s website adds.

Bet on Kids, Not Horsemen

Pennsylvania casinos share 54 percent of their slot machine revenue with the state in the form of taxes. Of the tax money, 11 percent is allocated for the Horse Racing Industry.

Wolf doesn’t believe casinos should be bankrolling horsemen. He said so as much last year.

We have to make some tough decisions sometimes in politics,” the governor told his audience at Lock Haven University a year ago this month. “Are we going to bet on horses or are we going to bet on our kids? I’m going to bet on our kids.”

Pennsylvanians graduate college with the second-highest debt in the nation, Wolf argues. The average student accepts his or her diploma with around $34,000 in loans to repay.

The large payments, the governor contends, shouldn’t be going towards repaying loans, but instead investing in their future by way of buying homes and furthering their careers.

“There are the people who are going to become our doctors, our teachers, our professors. They’re going to design our buildings. They’re going to fly our planes,” Wolf declared.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education includes 14 state universities across the Commonwealth.

Horsemen Say End of Racing

Pennsylvania’s horse racing industry naturally opposes Wolf’s wishes to redirect casino money to tuition assistance.

“If approved by the legislature, this raid would result in the end of horseracing in Pennsylvania by eviscerating the primary funding source for the purses and breeder incentives that serve as the lifeblood of the industry,” Pennsylvania Equine Coalition Executive Director Pete Peterson told the Paulick Report.

This scheme would destroy an industry that provides a $1.6 billion economic impact and supports an estimated 16,000 to 23,000 jobs in the agriculture, manufacturing, construction, retail, and hospitality industries here in Pennsylvania,” Peterson added.

In December, the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission signed off a shortened 2021 racing calendar, lingering impacts of COVID-19 the reason for reduced dates. The Parx, Penn National, and Presque Isle racecourses will combined hold a total of 348 racing days this year.


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