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Governor Rendell Recognizes Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission's 40 Years of Service

HARRISBURG, Pa., Dec. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission marked its 40th year of service today during a feature celebration at the Philadelphia Park racetrack, said Governor Edward G. Rendell.

"The horse racing industry is a significant contributor to Pennsylvania's economy and lifestyle, ranking in the top 10 nationally for the number of horses and value of sales with nearly $1 billion in wagering revenues," said Governor Rendell.

"The commission does an excellent job of providing oversight to horse racing, and has elevated Pennsylvania's status as a national leader in the industry. I commend the commission for its 40 years of service."The enactment of the State Horse Racing Law in 1967 created the commission, which provides general jurisdiction of all pari-mutuel thoroughbred horse racing activities in the commonwealth and all the corporations engaged in the industry.

Administration of the commission is led by executive secretary Ben Nolt. Three commissioners are appointed by Governor Rendell to oversee the year-round racing program. Lawrence J. Kent and Richard D. Abbott fill two seats. The other seat was vacated when F. Eugene Dixon died.

The commission supervises the three racetracks in Pennsylvania. Penn National Race Course in Grantville opened in 1972, followed in 1974 by what is now known as the Philadelphia Park in Bensalem. The current commission was the driving force behind Presque Isle Downs in Erie that opened for racing in September.

Thoroughbred races brought public wagers of nearly $950 million in 2007, with more than 40,000 horses going through the starting gates at the three tracks.

In 2006, the introduction of Pennsylvania's first-ever gaming industry brought slot machines to horse and harness racing tracks in the state, further bolstering the industry. By year's end, slot machine wagers at Philadelphia Park alone had reached more than $113 million.

Money from gaming will help reduce property taxes across the state, while increased purses will continue to draw more horsemen into Pennsylvania, and bolster the Pennsylvania Breeding Fund Program which promotes breeding and racing of Pennsylvania-bred thoroughbreds, offering monetary awards to state breeders and stallion owners.

Pennsylvania has been home to several "celebrity" horses since the first thoroughbred race in 1969. Smarty Jones, the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, was born and trained in the state, and Barbaro, the 2006 Derby winner was treated at the University of Pennsylvania New Bolton Center after a career-ending leg injury that eventually claimed his life.

Four divisions comprise the commission. The administrative division oversees the overall conduct and promotion of racing, as well as the other divisions. The enforcement division regulates racing rules and off-track wagering and investigates potential licensees. The licensing department issues licenses for all occupational and racing related functions at the race tracks and off-track wagering facilities. The fourth division is the Pennsylvania Breeding Fund Program."

The commission is responsible to the citizens of Pennsylvania to guarantee the integrity of racing," said Nolt. "We thank those who help make the racing industry the success it is."

For more information on the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission, visit http://www.agriculture.state.pa.us and click on "Commissions & Councils."


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