Simulcasting bills appear on fast track

February 10, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Horseplayers at Laurel and Pimlico soon should be able to bet on full cards of televised races from Gulfstream, Santa Anita and Oaklawn parks.

Legislation that allows such full-card simulcasting from out-of state tracks -- and permits all the wagers to be combined into one large betting pool at the host facility -- is expected to win quick approval from the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees.

Industry representatives were in Annapolis yesterday testifying before lawmakers that such electronic simulcast programs are needed to keep Maryland tracks competitive with the Charles Town Races, in Charles Town, W.Va., and Delaware Park in Stanton, Del.

Both tracks offer extensive simulcast programs and have lured away Maryland fans.

Sen. Thomas O'Reilly, D-Prince George's, chairman of the Finance Committee, said his committee could vote favorably on the bill as soon as today.

"I don't see any delay," O'Reilly said. "Everything I've heard has led me to believe that unquestionably we need to pass the legislation."

Del. Tyras Athey, D-Anne Arundel, chairman of Ways and Means, said his committee's next voting session isn't until next week. "But I don't see any real problem with the bill. We will move it along. I think everyone realizes the importance of the racing industry and that we need to do everything we can to help it."

The measure also applies to the state's harness tracks, which want to simulcast full cards from Pompano Park in Pompano Beach, Fla., and other standardbred tracks throughout the country.

The implementation of such electronic racing programs has been delayed because of ambiguous language in a simulcasting bill that was passed by the General Assembly in 1991.

The law allows the commingling of betting pools -- combining wagers into one common betting fund at the out-of-state track that sends the televised races into Maryland.

But the language didn't focus on specific situations where the takeout -- the amount extracted from wagers by the state, the tracks and the horsemen -- in the host state differs from that of Maryland.

Currently, only tracks in states with the same takeout can simulcast their full cards into Maryland. Only one such state -- New Jersey -- exists. Nightly trotting cards from The Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., are simulcast at Rosecroft and Delmarva raceways and have boosted handle there as much as 20 percent.

When the attorney general's office said that the language in the present statute is vague, the state racing commission sponsored the current legislation to clear up the ambiguities.

The measure is being considered on an emergency basis. It will require a two-thirds vote for passage when it reaches the floor.

California invaders

After experiencing some difficulty, California trainers Neil Drysdale and Dick Mandella have lined up air transportation for their mares Laramie Moon and Devil's Orchid, who are scheduled to run Saturday in the $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel.

Both horses are expected to leave Los Angeles tonight and arrive at Laurel early tomorrow morning, according to Lenny Hale, vice president of racing at Laurel-Pimlico.

Included in the shipment could be Desert Dirham, a Drysdale-trained runner who could start Monday in the General George Stakes, and Arrowtown, another General George possibility, who is trained by Bill Spawr.

Hale said it is not certain if those two horses are coming.

Hale expects the eight Fritchie highweights to run Saturday. They are Devil's Orchid and Quick Mischief (119 pounds), Stem The Tide (116), Laramie Moon and Wood So (115), Femma and Makin Faces (114) and Ritchie Trail (113). Other possible starters are Silver Tango, Moon Mist, My Treasure, Darinka and Part With Pride.

Notes

Pimlico-Laurel track operator Joe De Francis was in Richmond yesterday morning addressing the Virginia Racing Commission about his plans to build a track in the Old Dominion. He hopped a plane and was in Annapolis by 1 p.m. to testify on be half the commingling corrections bill. He told Maryland senators that his Virginia project is "past conjecture and is in the planning stages." . . . Pimlico first aid nurse Imogene Hicks is recovering from a hairline fracture of her knee and is expected to be back at work soon. . . . Penny Chenery, well-known owner of the late Triple Crown winner Secretariat, has volunteered to help "any way she can" with De Francis' Virginia plans and could become a spokeswoman for the project.

What is commingling?

Some lawmakers, new to the vagaries of horse racing, were wondering yesterday in Annapolis what the term "commingling pools" means.

It means simply that if you are a fan at Laurel or Pimlico and bet on a televised race from Gulfstream Park, the money you bet goes into one large, common pool at the Florida track.

The payoffs from the race are based on the takeout formula in that state, which differs from Maryland's.

Conversely, if Floridians were to bet on a Maryland race at Gulfstream, they would bet into a Laurel-Pimlico pool and receive payoffs based on Maryland's takeout formula.

The advantage is that the bigger pools offer better payoffs.

If the betting at Laurel-Pimlico on the Florida race was restricted to Maryland players, one large bettor could affect the odds and drive down the winning prices.

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