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May 20, 2011

Horse racing: How Miller would mitigate 'disaster'

There's no doubt Maryland lawmakers love horse racing -- they've given the industry $45 million in recent years and have promised it future annual payouts of up to $140 million through slots revenue.

Yet even its staunchest advocate in Annapolis, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, acknowledges that horse racing, anchored by the money-losing Maryland Jockey Club, is deeply troubled.

"It has been a disaster for the state of Maryland, a total, unmitigated disaster," Miller said of racing's course over the past decade.

But how would Miller mitigate the disaster? The Southern Maryland Democrat said again and again: The answer is slots. He sees electronic gaming as inextricably tied to the health of horse racing. 

As such, Miller said, the greatest help lawmakers could provide is to legalize slots at Rosecroft -- a harness racetrack in Prince George's County built by his family in the 1940s. 

Recently purchased by Penn National Gaming, Rosecroft is shuttered. Penn National officials say they want to return live racing to the track, as well as offer simulcasting of races across the country.

Miller insists that the facility -- helped by its proximity to the tourist attractions of D.C. and National Harbor -- would thrive with slots, which he says could help attract a younger generation to racing. Rosecroft could take its cue from Ocean Downs on the Eastern Shore, the only horse racetrack in the state authorized to have slots. It opened last fall.

Slots at Rosecroft would need the blessing of Maryland voters in November 2012, at the earliest. That's because when lawmakers designed the gaming program in 2007, authorizing five sites across the state (none of which was in Prince George's), they sent the issue to the ballot.

The longtime Senate president can't help but lament what Maryland and horse racing "lost" by not authorizing a slots program eight years ago, during the tenure of Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who made slots one of his signature issues. 

Miller bitterly recalled the "party politics" and "lack of vision" that he said have cost the state hundreds  of millions in revenue and brought Maryland's storied horse racing to the brink of demise.

"We lost it," he said. "We were ahead of everyone, all the states on our borders."

He's left, he said, with skepticism that the horse racing industry can survive in Maryland. "But I still have hope."

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 10:07 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Slots


Millers vision would cripple Cordish. I would have to think that COrdish's economic model assumes that he would attract those folks since they are already shopping at Arundel Mills.

This will be one to watch. eadvese

Mike Miller has been nothing but wrong, wrong, and still more wrong about what slots will or won't do for Maryland. He assured us that slots would help us avoid tax and toll hikes, fully fund education, and save horse racing. We are now years into his failed experiment and nothing of the sort is anywhere close to occurring. In fact, we are now hundreds of millions further in debt due to the purchase of the first round of slot machines. Now Miller suggests more slots? Really? Are Maryland voters going to be fooled again? Let's hope not.

Miller doesn't have to look any further than his ol' pal, Mike Busch... He single-handedly stonewalled passage of a slots bill with his cries about the "immorality" of slots and his smug, insincere bemoaning of the societal ills that would result... Now it's clear what a sham bunch of partisan bullsh*t that was... Busch is a worthless POS - I heard he recently refused to meet with Kevin Plank, the Under Armor CEO and owner of the legendary Sagamore Farms, to discuss his ideas for making the sport relevant again. As long as he's in the MD legislature, the odds of horseracing finding its footing are slim to none.

I still don't understand how this is such a big issue.

Let's recap...

1) Maryland is in fiscal trouble.

2) This means we're having trouble paying our bills -- not just that we can't afford the niceties.

3) We're wondering how many millions should be spent on HORSES?

4) Seriously? Horses?

If we simply went through our state budget with this attitude I am confident we could cut out enough, in one year, to balance the budget, if not create a surplus.

Dear Cynical Eastern Shore Girl, Maryland has spent millions of dollars on Baseball and football why not give some to the sport that puts on the biggest show in the state , The Preakness and for God's sake keep Pimlico open for training.

Aaron you do realize that Maryland paid, going with the high side of th eprices on machines 25k per machine.. I believe there are 1500 in Perryville and 750 in Ocean Downs and some of them are leased but just for number reasons we will go with 2250 machines purchased at 25K again the high number and you have 56,250,000. Maryland as of May 31st has brought in 60,597,528 from slots thats after the casino owners share of 29,846,543 was taken out that leaves maryland with a profit of 4,347,528 already and thats is maryland purchased the machines in one payment. How are we hundereds of millions in debt due to buying the machines?

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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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