At least three potential operators of off-track betting parlors attended a meeting of the Maryland Racing Commission yesterday, at which the board started considering rules for regulating OTB facilities.
The public meeting took place a day after Gov. William Donald Schaefer signed into law legislation that permits OTB parlors in the state.
"What I wanted to do was to take the boiler-plate approach and have an open discussion of the proposed rules in front of all the major representatives of the horsemen, track operators and breeders," said John H. Mosner Jr., the board's chairman. "Then the participants can look them over, discuss them and then hopefully we'll come up with a final set of regulations at our June 10 meeting."
One procedure seems clear: Applicants for OTB parlors must first negotiate an agreement with the thoroughbred and harness tracks before the racing commission will consider granting a permit.
The signed agreement must be attached to the board's permit application.
The board discussed a number of other proposals, including:
* An annual licensing fee of $500 will be charged OTB operators.
* There is no limit to the number of OTB facilities.
* OTB parlors must meet "Sports Palace" type criteria such as comfortable seating, large screen display of racing action, betting stations within easy access and visual and computer-assisted handicapping aids as well as dining facilities.
* The commission will conduct public hearings in the municipal and county jurisdictions within 10 miles of where the parlors will be located.
* The commission will conduct a personal and financial background check of every person with a financial interest in a parlor.
* If more than one entity wants the same parlor location, the commission will decide who gets the permit.
* OTB operators will be urged to take thoroughbred and harness signals.
* The length of a permit will be one year.
Among those attending the meeting who expressed interest in OTB parlors were the owner of a rod and reel club in Calvert County; Irvin Hodges, an operator of bingo parlors who was considered as a potential buyer last year of the Charles Town Races; and Chick Lang Sr., a member of the board of directors of Colt Enterprises, which operates Rosecroft and Delmarva Downs. Lang said he has been contacted by a local hotel chain that wants to install OTB parlors.
Lang said the first step in opening OTB facilities will probably be cross-simulcasting races between the state's thoroughbred and harness tracks. "There have already been discussions between Joe De Francis [the Laurel-Pimlico operator] and Ted Snell [general manager of Rosecroft-Delmarva]. What would happen is that Rosecroft would take the Laurel-Pimlico races in the afternoons, and Laurel and Pimlico would take the harness action at night," Lang said.
There also has been discussion about Timonium Race Course being used as a Baltimore-area parlor for the harness races.
The first OTB facilities probably will not be functional until late October or November.
"I would like to have an OTB facility ready to open up on Oct. 31 for the Breeders' Cup," Lang said.
The thoroughbred and harness tracks have not yet decided what to charge operators for use of their race signals.