MEC: Pimlico Rebuild, Preakness May Hinge on Slots

Magna Entertainment Corp., which recently said it would rebuild Pimlico Race Course, said the project now hinges on whether the state's racetracks are approved for slot machines.

The Baltimore Sun reported Oct. 8 that state legislators held a hearing at Pimlico Oct. 7, and also visited Laurel Park. In an interview afterward, MEC president Jim McAlpine told the newspaper slots are the key, and he mentioned the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), second leg of the Triple Crown, as well.

"The life of the Preakness will depend on the economic viability of horse racing in Maryland," McAlpine told the Sun. "If neighboring jurisdictions have slots, it makes it very difficult for the racetracks in Maryland to compete. You have to make a decision. Is the Preakness important? And if it's important, can you do it without (slots)?"

Racetracks in neighboring Delaware and West Virginia have video lottery terminals and slot machines. The Pennsylvania legislature continues to consider expanded gaming.

MEC chairman Frank Stronach has repeatedly said slots aren't the savior for horse racing. But Joe De Francis, a minority owner in Laurel and Pimlico, said it all comes down to a business decision.

Louis Ulman, a member of the Maryland Racing Commission, told the Sun it appears MEC is backing away from an earlier commitment to rebuild Pimlico, even without slot machines.