Rosecroft, Delmarva starting keno tonight

January 06, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

When Rosecroft and Delmarva raceways open for busines tonight, fans will find a new betting attraction: keno.

About an hour before the first harness race is scheduled to go off at 7:30 p.m., the first keno machines at Maryland racetracks are scheduled to be turned on.

Management of the state's two trotting tracks are taking a different approach to Maryland's newest lottery game than its thoroughbred counterparts.

zTC "If keno is here, and it's here to stay, then we have to participate," said Ted Snell, Rosecroft's president.

Joe De Francis, operator of Laurel-Pimlico, is adamant, however, that right now there will be no keno at his tracks.

"We offer horse racing, and we want to concentrate on making our racing product better, such as bringing in simulcasts from Santa Anita and Gulfstream parks to add to our live card," De Francis said. "To us, that's the most important thing. But if it turns out that our fans want it -- that we have to offer keno to remain competitive -- then we'll reconsider."

Snell said there are four keno outlets within 1 1/2 miles of his track. "We can't afford to lose 100 to 200 customers a day, so we have to offer it," he said.

Three keno machines are expected to be in operation at Rosecroft, "although we only have one hooked up now [for tonight]," Snell said. "There will also be one at Delmarva."

Snell sees keno as only the start of a larger connection between horse racing and casino-type gambling.

"In Wheeling, W.Va., a dog track has 800 video lottery machines," he said. "How is that going to affect The Meadows, a harness track right across the state line in Pennsylvania? Eventually, Pennsylvania is going to have to look into video lotteries. Delaware already has.

"Whether or not we like it, the tracks are going to have to offer these types of gambling. Keno is only the start. But, of course, I wish it had never happened."

NOTES: Although no contract has been signed yet, Maryland racetracks and John "Pappy" Poole, operator of the Cracked Claw restaurant in Urbana, have apparently agreed to terms on a deal that will make the Frederick County restaurant the state's first off-track betting parlor. Poole said on Sunday that a site plan for the OTB operation still has to be approved by the county zoning board.. . . . It's still too early to tell what effect keno will have on horse racing. At Laurel yesterday, the handle was off about $56,000 from the comparative date in 1992. But last year there were 10 live races. Yesterday there were nine live races plus a simulcast. Said De Francis: "Up through the first nine live races, we were a little ahead of last year. But in the last race simulcast, the fans only bet half of what they did on the last live race in 1992. It's a textbook example of why we still have to maintain our live product.". . . The board of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association approved the concept of multiple-signal simulcasting at a meeting at Laurel last night. But the agreement hinges upon management not reducing the current number of live races. Laurel runs 47 live races a week, and De Francis told the group he will be able to get the number back up to 50 a week. . . . Rick Wilson went wire-to-wire with Northern Launch yesterday and won the $22,000 Laurel feature for Joseph Keelty's Dumbarton Farm.

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