Maryland Industry Issues Plan to Revitalize Racing

The Maryland racing industry has signed off on a plan to revitalize the sport should legislators approve alternative gaming. Though efforts to win approval for racetrack slot machines have stalled in recent years, a key legislator said the plan represents progress.

The 15-page documentwas presented Feb. 1 to House Speaker Michael Busch, the chief legislative opponent to slots, the Baltimore Sun reported. Busch has repeatedly asked the horse industry to demonstrate how it intends to bounce back.

Busch remained non-committal on slots but called the document "the most substantive thing we've received," the newspaper reported.

"One of the issues that has always been out there is what is the justification to subsidize the horse-racing industry, without some indication of how the money is going to be spent," Busch said.

The industry plan includes marketing; an expansion of off-track betting; a bid for the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, presumably at Laurel Park; and the reworking of Preakness Stakes (gr. I) week into a "national festival of racing" at Pimlico Race Course in May.

Laurel, with a new dirt track and grass course, will become Maryland's primary Thoroughbred operation. The Maryland Jockey Club, which is owned by Magna Entertainment Corp., plans to offer live racing at Pimlico than two months each spring.

Bill Boniface, president of the Maryland Horse Breeders' Association, said the document is proof the industry can work together. Richard Hoffberger, president of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said racetrack slots would put Maryland on a level playing field with neighboring states. Jim Gagliano, an executive with the MJC, called the document "historic" for the racing industry.

Along with MEC, which operates Laurel and Pimlico, supporting the plan are the Maryland State Fair at Timonium and William Rickman Jr., who operates the Ocean Downs harness track on the Eastern Shore. Rosecroft Raceway, another harness track, will be included in the effort when its sale to the family of Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos is completed.

Read the Complete Report on a Plan to Revitalize Maryland Racing