Harness racing finally begins at Harrah's Philadelphia

The horses warm up while Joe Laino , 65, of South Philadelphia checks his racing form Friday, March 28, 2014, as another season of harness racing begins at Harrahs Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack in Chester.
The horses warm up while Joe Laino , 65, of South Philadelphia checks his racing form Friday, March 28, 2014, as another season of harness racing begins at Harrahs Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack in Chester. (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 30, 2014

CHESTER Despite rainy weather and a brief suspension by the state, another season of harness racing began Friday at Harrah's Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack.

Several dozen spectators lined a balcony to watch seven horses and their drivers circle the track along the waterfront, ducking inside between races to warm up and place their bets.

In January, the state Department of Agriculture suspended the track's racing dates. The suspension was lifted at the end of February once Harrah's told state officials it would hire a surveyor and consultant to assess the state of the racetrack, said Nicole Bucher, a spokeswoman for the department.

The surveyor and consultant have completed reports that have not yet been provided to the state harness racing commission, Bucher said.

Harness racing at the track and casino in Delaware County had been scheduled to begin earlier this month. But winter weather delayed the start of the season, said Katie Dougherty, a spokeswoman for Harrah's.

Harrah's is also facing a lawsuit from the family of a driver who was seriously injured in a crash on the track in November. The lawsuit contends the track's owners had knowledge of dangerous conditions.

Harrah's casino license is contingent on its horse racing.

Standing outside to watch the harness racing Friday, George Hitz of Berwyn said he visits the casino about once a month during horse-racing season. He is a longtime fan of racing, but said the crowd is always smaller in the grandstand than in the casino itself.

"Go to the parking lot, and there are tons of cars, but they're all playing the slot machines," he said.


lmccrystal@phillynews.com

610-313-8116

@Lmccrystal

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