Simulcasting must wait for law change Legislation would allow signals from Fla., Calif.

January 07, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Operators of Maryland's thoroughbred and harness tracks apparently will have to go to Annapolis to get a law passed before they can start taking multiple signal simulcasts from tracks in such states as Florida and California.

Joseph Owens, deputy secretary of the state's Department of Licensing and Regulation, said under current law, bets can't be taken on a full-card, commingled pool simulcast from out of state unless the takeout in the host state is the same as in Maryland.

"It is just not something you can interpret any other way," Owens said. "When it was written, there was no thought of commingling, just simulcasting. The words are clear: The takeouts have to be the same."

Owens said that he has received "nothing in writing" from Bruce Spizler, the assistant attorney general who handles racing matters, about his interpretation of the law. But Owens said that Spizler agrees.

Spizler, who is out of the office this week, could not be reached for comment.

John H. "Jack" Mosner Jr., chairman of the state racing commission, said the board has yet to hear from Spizler. The commission is expected to discuss the matter at its monthly meeting at Timonium Race Course next Wednesday.

"We haven't heard formally from Bruce, who we asked to do research on the issue," Mosner said. He added that if the tracks have to go to the General Assembly to seek legislation, "then the commission will be happy to sponsor the bill."

The board gave its unanimous approval for the multiple signal simulcasts at its December meeting. But later in the month, when Rosecroft management wanted to take a full card of televised races from Pompano Park in Pompano Beach, Fla., officials realized the takeout differed from Maryland.

Up to that point, no one thought there were any legal obstacles to the simulcasts.

But Kenneth Schertle, executive director of the Maryland Racing Commission, consulted state law and ruled that because of the takeout differences, the Florida simulcasts were not permitted.

Rosecroft takes full-card simulcasts and commingles betting pools with The Meadowlands. The takeout in New Jersey is the same as in Maryland.

Joe De Francis, operator of Laurel-Pimlico, said that if the tracks have to go to the General Assembly for help, "we will do it as soon as possible. I haven't talked to anyone in the General Assembly about it yet. But this is purely technical legislation. In the past they have been very responsive to this sort of thing."

De Francis said the legal problem not only holds up his desire to start taking bets on televised races from Gulfstream, Oaklawn and Santa Anita parks, but also cross-breed simulcasting with the state's harness tracks. Both the thoroughbred and harness tracks want to conduct multiple signal simulcasting with out of state tracks.

"It is necessary to act quickly on this because winter is the time of year when our horse population is at a low," De Francis said. "That's when taking the simulcasts from other tracks has its most value."

Owens said the tracks could put an emergency bill in the General Assembly, which convenes next week. When the bill is signed by the governor, it would go into effect immediately.

"It could be done fairly quickly, if they [the tracks] get the support they need," he said.

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