Several departments of Maryland state government including the racing commission will be part of a marketing task force to be announced Monday (Oct. 23) at the commission's monthly meeting.
The writer of the well-known advertising jingle "I'd like to buy the world a Coke," has also volunteered to help the task force, said John P. McDaniel, chairman of the racing commission. The writer is a Virginia-based horseman named Bill Backer whose horses sometimes compete in Maryland.
"We think it's going to be a great thing that will move the industry forward," McDaniel said.
Members of the state's Thoroughbred and Standard-bred industries will be represented. Track managers as well as leading horsemen and breeders are expected to be involved. Representatives from Maryland's departments of tourism, business and economic development, and labor, licensing and regulation will be on the panel. The Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation oversee the racing commission.
John B. Franzone, a member of the racing commission, will chair the task force, McDaniel said. McDaniel will serve on the task force but only as a regular member.
The maneuver is being viewed as a way to improve the industry's chances of getting the legislature to allow slot machines at places such as Baltimore's historic Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park, a track in the central part of the state. A single slots bill has yet to be approved by both houses of the legislature during four years of sometimes heated debate involving Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and some leading Democrats, especially in the lower House of Delegates. Democrats are the majority in both houses.
McDaniel said he would like to see the task force publish a report by the time the legislature reconvenes in January. He expects some government funding to defray costs of the panel's work and implement some of the ideas.
House of Delegates Speaker Michael E. Busch, a leading slot foe, has listed poor marketing among reasons for not granting track operators potentially lucrative slot licenses. Busch has called on industry leaders to make better use of current tools by improving advertising and making a market in night Thoroughbred racing and simulcasting.