BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Maryland Horse Breeders Association says it’s staying competitive on and off the track.

Christie Ileto explains why slot machine gambling is a big boost to the state’s horse racing industry.

Thanks to the program “Maryland Bred,” the Maryland Horse Breeders Association says the horse industry here is winning.

“It’s certainly a much needed shot in the arm,” said Donnie Miller Jr., jockey.

The program pays horse race winnings out of casino revenue and nearly doubles bonuses that Maryland bred horses earn when they finish in the top three of a Maryland race.

“The idea that the new breeding programs can add incentive to the industry or produce some of the best in the U.S. again is certainly something I think we look forward to,” Miller said.

Advocates say this boosts breeding, selling and racing in Maryland but also  makes our state more competitive.

Numbers show seven percent of the revenue from slot machines go to horse winnings. As of last month, that percentage totals to $36 million for the year.

Online ads show the program has resurrected the once struggling horse industry, preserving 600,000 acres, supporting 14,000 jobs and funneling $1.6 billion in Maryland.

“With now having people bringing horses back to breed and making them Maryland bred, we’ve been able to create a couple new jobs on just our one farm,” said Becky Davis, farm owner.

Critics have long argued the state shouldn’t finance the program when there are other needs across Maryland. But supporters say this encourages owners to breed horses here.

“I think it’s important that people know that these bonuses are really important on a personal level as well, not just for the industry as a whole,” Davis said.

And as long as this program is around, advocates say Maryland horse racing will remain at the top of its game.

Officials say after casinos began operating in Maryland in 2010, purses at Maryland tracks nearly doubled to almost $300,000.

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