City finishes out of money as Pimlico loses 10 more racing days

November 14, 1991|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Evening Sun Staff

Pimlico's racing schedule has been chopped by 10 days next year.

The opening of the spring meet at the Baltimore track has been delayed from March 15 to March 25. The live racing dates, which will be run instead at Laurel, could mean a loss of nearly $30,000 in parking and admissions taxes to the financially strapped city government, Doug Brown, an official with the Department of Finance, has estimated.

But during that period, Pimlico still will operate as an inter-track simulcast center and generate some tax money for the city.

There are other intangibles, such as the effect on area businesses, which are difficult to calculate, Brown said.

"I think the effect on the city will be minimal," said Martin Jacobs, executive vice president, general counsel and part owner of both Laurel and Pimlico. His tracks, too, have been hurt financially in the last year, posting single-digit declines in attendance and handle, and prompting the layoff of about 40 employees in recent weeks.

Under a plan approved yesterday by the Maryland Racing Commission, Pimlico will race 91 days in 1992 compared to 167 days for Laurel.

It means that Pimlico will stage live races only about a third of the year compared to two-thirds for Laurel.

Since the current ownership team that operates both tracks acquired Pimlico in 1986, it has pared Pimlico's live racing dates by more than 20 percent.

Jacobs said it is strictly "an economic move. There is a bigger market [in the Laurel area]. We average about $100,000 more a day in bets at Laurel," he said.

Jacobs also noted that Laurel is better equipped to handle winter racing, another factor in moving up the opening of Pimlico later in the calendar.

The schedule drew no opposition from the commissioners.

"I think it's a smart move," said the board's chairman, John M. Mosner Jr. "It's good for the game overall. These people [the track owners] use common sense in the allocation of days."

Mosner also speculated that if the General Assembly passes an off-track betting bill next year, Pimlico's Sports Palace could be a good place for harness racing simulcasts at night, another move that could help city coffers.

There are also changes in the state's harness racing schedule.

Colt Enterprises, the Fred Weisman-owned company that operates Rosecroft and Delmarva Downs, plans to close Rosecroft for live racing during the month of August and run solely at Delmarva, located near Ocean City.

Charles Lockhart, executive director of Cloverleaf, the organization representing harness horsemen, said the move means a loss of about 35 racing days. "We hate to lose them, but think overall it could help the average purse distribution," Lockhart said.

During that period, Rosecroft will be open to take simulcast bets on the Delmarva races. Rosecroft also will shut down for about six weeks from the Christmas holidays through the end of January.

In addition to approving the 1992 racing calendar, the commissioners fined trainers Dick Delp and Carlos Garcia each $1,000 after traces of cocaine were found in post-race samples taken from their animals. Since investigators could not prove how the cocaine was ingested by the horses, the trainers were fined rather than suspended for 15 days.

The commissioners also rescinded a $200 fine for trainer Ferris Allen. Allen had been fined by the stewards after investigators found two syringes in his stabling area. However, Allen produced veterinary documentation that stated that the syringes were used to administer therapeutic medications and not illegal drugs.

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