Lack of compromise brings inter-track deal to finish line

June 02, 1993|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

Negotiations between Maryland's thoroughbred and harness racing industries broke down yesterday, ending the inter-tracking experiment that started five weeks ago.

A tersely worded statement from Alan Foreman, attorney for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said the talks reached "an impasse and . . . effective with the commencement of live thoroughbred racing at Laurel on June 10, 1993, the experiment will terminate."

As a result, Pimlico and Laurel will close as wagering outlets for harness racing at night and Rosecroft Raceway will close as a day betting facility for thoroughbred racing.

According to state law, wagering on thoroughbred races now will cease at 6:15 p.m. except for advance bets. That will impact Pimlico and Laurel, where the cutoff for thoroughbred betting had been an hour later because of the inter-track agreement.

There is still some question as to whether late racing from simulcast outlets such as Hollywood Park and Churchill Downs will be shown on the television monitors at Pimlico and Laurel after betting stops.

None of the principals in the talks was commenting on the details, but the news didn't sit well with Jack Mosner, chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission.

"The situation with these racing groups has gone from disappointment to disgust," said Mosner.

"This was set up as a 90-day experiment, and they can't even get that far. In all common sense, why would you want to abandon something that looks good?"

Negotiations at Laurel lasted 3 1/2 hours with several proposals on how to divide the revenue being exchanged.

Harness interests have profited immensely from having Pimlico and Laurel open, but the reverse has not been true with Rosecroft cutting into Laurel's handles.

Baltimore race-goers who used to attend now-defunct Freestate Raceway in Laurel but wouldn't drive the extra mileage to Rosecroft (in lower Prince George's County) had found a new home at Pimlico.

The trade-off has not been nearly as lucrative for the flat tracks. It is believed that Joe De Francis, Pimlico-Laurel president, sought concessions that would allow telecasts from late thoroughbred outlets in their entirety.

De Francis, who exercised the option given to all parties to stop the 90-day experiment at any time with 10 days' notice, did say "we will probably pick up another [thoroughbred] signal during the day" to replace the betting that was available on the Freehold harness track (now closed). "We're analyzing that."

Mosner made it plain that the commission favors a continuation of inter-tracking and said: "I would hope the two sides are big enough to sit down and compromise.

* The state's second off-track betting outlet, Poor Jimmy's Family Restaurant in Cecil County, will open for the first time today, probably with thoroughbred action only after the negotiations with the harness interests terminated.

Proprietor Jimmy Bomba said, "We expect to have 2,000 to 5,000 [customers] a week."

Poor Jimmy's is on the corner of routes 40 and 272 in North East, minutes from I-95 via Exit 100. It received approval as an OTB parlor from the Maryland Racing Commission last week.

Unlike the situation with The Cracked Claw in Frederick County, there was only token opposition to the facility.

Bomba said one of his dining rooms will be kept "totally separate" and he is hiring an additional 40 people (bartenders, waitresses, mutuel clerks, etc.) to handle the new business.

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