Joe De Francis, operator of Pimlico and Laurel race courses, said yesterday that he has received about a dozen inquiries from parties interested in establishing off-track betting facilities in Maryland.
De Francis gave a hint about the interest in OTB at a largely celebratory press conference at Pimlico that included only the thoroughbred participants in the Maryland Horse Coalition. The coalition, composed of organizations representing breeders, owners and trainers, and jockeys, was instrumental in getting the OTB bill passed in the General Assembly.
The measure, which allows an unlimited number of OTB parlors in the state and is a joint venture with the harness racing industry, was passed by the Senate on Wednesday and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. William Donald Schaefer. It will take effect July 1.
De Francis said he took no action on inquiries. He said he is appointing a committee of his senior executives -- Martin Jacobs, Jim Mango, Tom Lattanzi and Frank Trigeiro -- to create procedures for applicants who want to establish OTB parlors. He said the group will also conduct a market study on site locations.
De Francis said he expects the first OTB outlets to be located in southern Prince George's county, near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, or in Cecil county (at the Fair Hill steeplechase track and thoroughbred training center).
Applicants who want to establish OTB facilities must first make a deal with the thoroughbred and harness tracks on picking up their televised signal. Then the applicants will be screened by the Maryland Racing Commission.
Commission s chairman John H. Mosner Jr. said the commission has asked assistant attorney general Bruce Spizler to interpret the legislation.
"We have to decide how this thing is going to work," he said.
Mosner said that after an applicant works out an arrangement with the tracks, "then we have to look at the feasibility of the people involved."
"We want to look at the proposed locations, the impact on the communities that are involved, and the financial feasibility of the proposals. We are not going to offhandedly approve major expenditures without during our homework," he said.
De Francis said if "we don't receive suitable joint venture partners [in developing OTB outlets], then we'll go ahead and develop the sites ourselves."
NOTES: Ameri Valay, who worked six furlongs in 1 minute, 12 1/5 seconds at Laurel on Saturday, faces a field of eight 3-year-olds tomorrow in the Deputed Testamony Stakes. The horse will be ridden by Mike Luzzi, who won two races at Pimlico yesterday, including the feature on Freight Trainer. . . . Funeral services were held in Boston this week for trainer Joe Considine, who died of cancer at his home in Laurel on Sunday. He was 77. Considine trained Leematt and other Maryland-bred champions. . . . Longtime Laurel general manager Frank Brady, who retired in 1984, has died of cancer and will be buried in New York. . . . Western Miner, who raced poorly from the one-post position in the Bay Shore Stakes in his most recent start at Aqueduct, has also drawn the inside post for tomorrow's Gotham Stakes at the New York track. . . . ABC sportscaster Jim McKay, who has Triple Crown aspirations for his 3-year-old colt, John The Bold, is expected to be at Pimlico tomorrow to see his horse run in the Deputed Testamony Stakes.