Panel: Casino-type gambling a threat

March 10, 1994|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Staff Writer

FORT WASHINGTON -- Members of the Maryland Racing Commission expressed major concern yesterday over the encroachment of casino-type gambling into neighboring states and said they would explore the matter.

"I'm very concerned about the detrimental effect this may have on Maryland racing," said Dr. Allan Levey, one of the commissioners. "We really have to look into this.

"We can't wait like we did with OTB [off-track betting]. It took the state five years to get that going and it has saved the racing industry."

Dr. Levey offered to serve on a subcommittee on the subject after a number of harness racing officials painted a bleak picture of how casinos and slot machines have negatively impacted racing's revenues in a number of other states.

"This is an election year, so nothing will happen now, but we have to move the first of next year," he said. "Instead of reacting, we have to try to enact with the state of Maryland."

Ted Snell, president of Rosecroft Raceway, said the threat of other forms of gambling on horse racing was the key topic at the recent Harness Tracks of America convention.

He said a University of Louisville study estimated that riverboat gambling on Indiana's side of the Ohio River caused a 30-percent reduction in revenues at Churchill Downs, and that 23 states have approved some form of gambling in the past two years.

In West Virginia, the legislature has approved the operation of slot machines. In Delaware, slot machines are seen as the solution for the state's ailing harness tracks.

Riverboat gambling is planned in Pennsylvania and Virginia.

John Mooney, general manager of Laurel and Pimlico, expects throughbred horsemen to favor alternative forms of gambling at tracks "if they participate in the project."

No action was taken on the matter.

In other action at its monthly meeting, the commission:

* Authorized 20 additional nights of racing at Rosecroft (new total: 260 including simulcast-only programs).

* Discussed the exchange of a week of racing between Pimlico and Laurel to allow the Maryland Million to be conducted at Laurel Oct. 1. To accommodate that, Pimlico's summer meeting would start a week earlier (Aug. 2) as would Laurel's fall meet (Sept. 27). Before final approval, public meetings must be held at each site.

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