Maryland Purse Supplement Less Than Expected

The expected $4.5-million purse supplement for Maryland racing has apparently shrunk to $3 million, according to Mike Hopkins, acting executive director of the Maryland Racing Commission.

A last-minute bill introduced in the General Assembly created the supplement. The estimates of $4.5 million--70% for Thoroughbreds and 30% for Standardbreds--came from racing leaders' interpretation of the bill. When they actually read the law, Hopkins said, they discovered it was written in such a way as to provide only about $3 million for purses.

The law says money raised from the increased pari-mutuel takeout at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course from fiscal years 2001 and 2002 (the state's fiscal year begins July 1) will be returned to the industry for purses. That will amount to about $3 million dispensed from July 1 this year to June 30 next year, Hopkins said.

However, the money raised from takeout from July 1, 2000, to June 30, 2001, was excluded from the purse supplement, Hopkins said. That amounts to about $1.6 million. Hopkins said no one can figure out why that money was excluded. Perhaps it was an oversight, he said.

He said the tracks could claim that $1.6 million for such things as capital improvements and marketing if they submitted a plan that was approved by the governor. As for the decreased purse supplement, Lou Raffetto Jr., chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club, said he was disappointed.

"I thought we could loosen our belt buckle a little bit," he said. "Instead, we'll have to stay on a diet. Our problem is that we need to grow our business, not go sideways. At this point, we're going sideways."

Nevertheless, the MJC will restore its graded stakes later this year--the ones cut last year--and ensure that the Pimlico Special returns in 2003, Raffetto said.