There’s no doubt that gambling within the state of Pennsylvania is incredibly big business and you only need to look at how busy the casinos are each weekend, to know that many people dream of striking it rich.
However, the slot machines within the state are not the only popular pursuit when it comes to gambling and for those who like a flutter from time to time, the sport of kings is one that generates a large amount of attention.
For those who do not know what this regal discipline is, it is none other than horse racing and although at first glance this sport and the world of slots seem largely independent of each other, they are perhaps more connected than you first thought.
Especially within Pennsylvania itself, as the taxes generated within casinos are then reappropriated to the horse racing industry and it is this channelling of funds, which has recently become a cause for consternation.
That’s because in a poll that was carried out by the Education Voters of Pennsylvania, a rather pertinent question was asked. One that suggested, the sizeable portion of taxes should go elsewhere from the racetrack.
Of those who were polled, a staggering 83% agreed with the statement that tax revenues should be diverted from horse racing, while just 10% by comparison agreed with the current setup. A result, that offers a rather damming indictment of the current state of play.
Because for many within the state, they feel this money would be better spent on education and the ability to help students remove themselves from what is currently a high-tuition but high-debt cycle of learning.
At present, 12% of all casino revenue goes to the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund and in doing so, it pays for elements such as race purses, breeder incentives, drug testing and state wide enforcement activities.
Although the counter argument to this, is that it would be better placed within student scholarship programs and in doing so, it would offer the ability to lift more youngsters out of educational poverty.
Of course, on a topic such as this, it is always going to lead to rather fraught debate, and it is an idea that the Pennsylvania racing community have understandably turned their noses up – especially as it is they who would have so much to lose.
At the same time, they have also gained an incredible amount since 2004 and when looking at the total of tax revenue that has been diverted in their direction, it stands at an incredible $3.3billion. A figure that certainly is not small change.
Which is why they are not prepared to give up the current setup without a fight and if the Pennsylvania racing community loses a huge amount of funding, it will have a negative trickle-down effect for the industries that are connected with the sport.
One of those would be gambling and although Pennsylvania sportsbooks hold the odds at present, if there are fewer racing events being staged due to a lack of funding, the ability to wager on the outcome may well dissipate.
Because with less events being held within the state, less interest may be generated and if the demand is no longer at the level it once was, those sportsbooks will have to weigh up the financial viability of offering odds to start with.
Then again, it is not just the gambling industry which stands to lose from any change in revenue and with up to 20,000 people being employed through Pennsylvania racing, there is a potential human cost in all of this.
Which presents the decision makers with a huge dilemma and one that no matter what the eventual outcome is, there will understandably be winners and losers – a scenario, which ironically always unfolds at the racetrack itself.
While the dilemma is this: Do you keep the status quo and protect the large number of people who find gainful employment through horse racing (employment that only comes about through funding) or do you give students a much greater chance of starting life on the right path.
There is no right or wrong answer, but there will certainly be one soon and for those who took the time to answer a recent poll, many will hope that legislation sees a change away from substantial equine funding.