The Maryland racing industry is throwing its support behind a campaign for slot machines, but it remains to be seen whether any racetracks would get the gambling devices should the public approve a statewide ballot measure in November.
The state legislature approved a slots bill in 2007. It defined how 15,000 slot machines would be distributed in five locations, but offered few specifics.
It proposes putting 4,750 machines in Anne Arundel County, presumably at Laurel Park; 2,500 in Cecil County near the Delaware border; 2,500 in Worcester County, presumably at Ocean Downs harness track on the state's Eastern Shore; 3,750 in Baltimore; and 1,500 in Rocky Gap State Park near Cumberland in western Maryland.
Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore and Rosecroft Raceway, a harness track near Washington, D.C., would not get slots.
There has been a question whether Magna Entertainment Corp., owner of Laurel and Pimlico, would participate in the pro-slots campaign. On May 13, MEC vice president of racing Scott Borgemenke said the company would support the effort.
“The legislation says there is a 60-square-mile area in which the slots can go,” Borgemenke said. “We’re going to advocate that Laurel is the best spot (in Anne Arundel County), and we’re going to put in a strong bid to do it. Hopefully the horsemen will support us.”
The Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which represents horsemen at Laurel and Pimlico, already has invested the most of any pro-slots racing group, said Alan Foreman, counsel for the Maryland THA.
“We will actively support passage of the constitutional amendment,” Foreman said. “We think we can make a case why (slots) should be at racetracks, but with all the issues going on with MEC, they will have to make the case.”
Foreman said wherever slot machines are located, “purses will have to receive significant support.”
Under the legislation passed last year, license owners would get 33% of the revenue. Nearly half of the slots revenue--48.5%--would go toward education. The amount for education would eventually rise to 51% after 2.5% set aside for racing-industry renewal expires after eight years. Purses at tracks would get 7% of the revenue.
It is expected all tracks would share in the slots revenue under the 80/20 formula used to allocate pari-mutuel revenue for Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing.
A group called For Maryland For Our Future is lobbying for slots and has support from the Maryland State Teachers Association, Maryland Chamber of Commerce, Maryland Association of Counties, and the Maryland and District of Columbia AFL-CIO. The group plans to have a presence on May 17, Preakness Stakes (gr. I) day at Pimlico Race Course.