VLTs, Purse Supplements Proposed in Maryland

Several bills related to horse racing, and a proposed constitutional amendment to authorize video lottery terminals at racetracks and other sites, have been assigned to the Maryland House Ways and Means Committee. Each of the measures was introduced in early February.

The VLT measure calls for revenue to bolster the state's educational system as well as the horse racing industry. It says the state lottery commission would regulate the machines and collect the proceeds, but there is no mention of revenue splits.

The proposal says the lottery commission can issue four VLT licenses -- two of them at racetracks, and the other two at tourist destinations in the state. Apparently, a racetrack qualifies as a tourist destination, so more than two tracks could end up with machines should a referendum pass in 2002.

Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening opposes expanded gambling, but his term expires next year.

Three bills in the Ways and Means Committee also deal with horse racing:

- A special fund would be created to receive $10 million for purse supplements in 2001, and $250,000 for the Health and Welfare Trust maintained by The Jockey's Guild.

The $10 million would be awarded accordingly: 11% for breed enhancement (70% for Thoroughbreds and 30% for Standardbreds), and 89% for purses (70% to the two Maryland Jockey Club tracks and the Maryland State Fair at Timonium, and 30% to harness tracks -- 85% to Rosecroft Raceway, and 15% to Ocean Downs).

Alan Foreman, chief executive officer of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said the purse-supplement bill is the only one that currently has the support of the Maryland THA.

- The Maryland Racing Commission would award permits for satellite wagering facilities according to geographic region, and no more than eight could operate. The regions are western Maryland (one satellite facility), the capital region (two), central Maryland (two), southern Maryland (two), and the Eastern Shore (one).

- Thoroughbred racing would be permitted after 6:15 p.m., but not at Pimlico Race Course. That would leave Laurel Park and a track planned for Allegany County in western Maryland in the mix. In addition, the bill deals with nighttime simulcasting and intertrack wagering, over which Thoroughbred and Standardbred interests battled for years until an agreement was reached last year.