Chris McErlean of Penn Gaming joined the Joe Hirsch Speaker Series to discuss his role as Vice President of Racing for the company. McErlean comes from a family of horse racing fans and relayed to students that from a young age he most enjoyed studying the analytical aspects of racing, like reading the Daily Racing Form. He spent time in executive roles at thoroughbred and standardbred tracks in New Jersey before joining Penn Gaming in 2007.
McErlean spoke extensively on the scope of his organization and how he plays a part in its operations. Penn Gaming operates tracks in five different states: Ohio, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas, and West Virginia. He discussed how he works to keep staffing issues at a minimum across his tracks and how his tracks work hard to keep relationships with horsemen positive.
He also spoke on industry hot topics like Historical Horse Racing (HHR) machines and the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA). In regards to HHR, McErlean explained to students that the implementation of the machines isn’t as much of a priority for a casino that already had full slots. As for HISA, McErlean is in the very unique position of overseeing tracks in states that have both opted in and out of HISA.
Finally, McErlean provided advice to students on how to succeed in horse racing. He emphasized keeping all opportunities on the table because, “you’re not starting where you end up”, and that it is essential students understand the financials of any organization they work for.