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December 22, 2010

O'Malley brokers deal to save horse racing

Update: Hanah Cho is now reporting that there's a deal in the horse racing standoff.

"Gov. Martin O'Malley brokered this morning a last-minute deal between the owners of Maryland's two major thoroughbred tracks and the horsemen and breeders to guarantee live races next year — less than 24 hours after a state commission rejected a proposed schedule.

The owners of Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course and representatives of horse owners and breeders — who traded some contentious words on Tuesday night at a Maryland Racing Commission meeting — agreed after a meeting at the State House this morning to a framework that would allow the tracks to at least break even financially and run 146 days in 2011, the same as this year's schedule.

The agreement, which would need the racing commission's approval, calls for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association to contribute $1.7 million and the state to transfer $3 million to $4 million from the state's slot-machine program to help pay for the Maryland Jockey Club's operations. The slots revenue had been earmarked for a track improvements."

Earlier post below:

Efforts to save Maryland horse racing -- and the treasured Preakness Stakes -- have intensified this morning, with Gov. Martin O'Malley convening a group in Annapolis in hopes of brokering a last-minute deal.

The gathering follows the Maryland Racing Commission's unanimous rejection yesterday, at what was to be its final meeting of the year, of a proposed racing schedule by track owners. This is at least the second attempt by O'Malley to intervene in nearly nonstop negotiations over the past few weeks.

If no agreement is reached by the end of the year, Laurel Park racetrack could close its doors Jan. 1, and the Preakness -- a $40 million boon to the state's economy -- at Pimlico racetrack in Baltimore would be in question.

The Sun's Hanah Cho reported this morning:

MI Developments and Penn National and horse-racing industry representatives were unable to agree on a schedule that would ensure that the Jockey Club would at least break even after years of losses and maintain year-round racing for the thousands of workers in the industry.

Though some commissioners expressed hope that the track owners would come back with another proposal, Penn National spokesman Eric Schippers noted that their latest proposal was "summarily rejected by both the horse industry and the commission."

Two years ago, as the track owners filed for bankruptcy, state legislators granted the governor the authority to seize the Preakness.

O'Malley said in a statement yesterday:

“It's disappointing the parties involved could not reach an agreement. We are prepared to aggressively protect the State’s interests, as we did two years ago when presented with the threat of losing Maryland"s treasured Preakness Stakes. 

“I would encourage the track owners, industry representatives, and horsemen and breeders to return to the table and reach an agreement that protects the jobs that depend on our rich history of racing in Maryland. We will continue to explore the legal options available to us.”

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 10:50 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Administration


With state employees being furloughed for lack of state funding, It seems a waste of tax payer's money to pay for furlongs at race tracks!

Whilst we hope to see a deal that will, first of all, be fan friendly, let us remember that this governor has been in bed with Penn National since its failed attempt to get slots at Rosecroft Raceway (which ceased operations thereafter.)

Penn and Magna have shown nothing but contempt for anything or anyone in the industry except their own selfish interests---one suspects the only hope for racing in MD is to get rid of both of them.

Citizens should very carefully inspect every codicile of any last-minute agreement---and the Racing Commission which acted so responsibly (at long long last) yesterday should not kowtow to any agreement that fails to take into prime account the interests of the fans, horsemen , track employees and taxpaying citizens.

Dear Citizens of Maryland

Penn National who owns Hollywood Slot Parlor in Perryville is a minority owner of Laurel.

Since Penn National gambled that Anne Arundel County would vote the Arundel Mills Slot Parlor down; they have decided to take their marbles and go home.

The state should declare eminent domain. That would protect the Preakness.

Pimlico is a dump. It is in a high crime area. It looks great on TV – once a year.

Racing in Maryland is a loooooosing proposition.

There were rumors that the state would consider changing the law to allow a slot parlor owner to have more than one sight.

That would satisfy Penn National and all the bribe money they have thrown around to our state officials.

The state’s share of slot revenue is the HIGHEST of any state in the country. No wonder no one will build a slot parlor in Western Maryland. They could not compete with Charlestown (Penn National).

The state of Maryland has screwed the slot issue up for over 10 years. Their political appointees to their gaming commission are incompetent boobs.

It has been a 4 star foul up from the start.

The citizens of Maryland are a bunch of suckers for letting this happen!!!

This time instead of thinking about it DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!

I thought he was saving Rosecroft?? Has that happened yet?

There seems to be an absolute lack of awareness that the Owners are the only ones who've lost money year after year. If the horsemen won't suck up 1.7million (not even the price of one good race horse), closing Bowie and video rights; and, if it's true that 12% have already left Maryland (could be an annual migration this time of year?); and, if the Racing Commission always sides with the horsemen, then the Owners are right to walk. What will the State have to pay in an eminent domain seizure? Probably quite a bit more than Owners can look forward to after a few more years of $5-7million losses. The non-Owners are not seeing the whole picture and they are killing their own futures.

Just like he rolled up is sleeves and saved us from the BGE rate hikes.

Let's see, I own horses that can run in for a 4k purse in Maryland or go to Delaware or W.VA and run against the same field for a 10k purse? Duh!

Put the slots at the tracks instead of at the shopping mall and MD racing has a chance.

It never fails that someone automatically assumes that money comes from the state tax fund.

Please note the money is being shifted from slots revenue that was going to be used at the track anyway. Also please note the dedicated "IRS" windows that can be found in every racetrack in America.

The money comes from the gambler, for without he (or her) horse racing nor slots exist.

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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