OTB outlet rounding final turn? DTC

August 18, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

The future of one of Maryland's four fledgling off-track betting parlors appears to be on shaky ground and has aroused the concern of the state's racing commission.

Poor Jimmy's, in the Cecil County community of North East near Elkton, recently had its lease renewed on a piecemeal -- instead of yearly -- basis and is now guaranteed to stay open only through Dec. 31.

Maryland Jockey Club president Joe De Francis said the reason for the short-term lease is that he is "very concerned" about the Delaware legislature's decision to allow slot machines at nearby Delaware Park and the detrimental impact that that track's casino-type gambling could have on Poor Jimmy's business.

The outlet is unique in that the facility is leased and operated by the Maryland Jockey Club, owner of Pimlico and Laurel race courses.

The track pays rent to cover extra operating expenses incurred by the outlet's proprietor, Jimmy Bomba. Bomba is expected to make his profit on food and beverage sales, said Martin Jacobs, part owner and chief counsel for Pimlico/Laurel.

The proprietors of the state's three other OTB parlors in Urbana, Cambridge and Colonial Beach, Va. operate their own facilities and receive a percentage of the betting proceeds.

A jockey club official said Poor Jimmy's, which opened in June 1993 with a one-year lease, was on the verge of shutting down last week after Bomba claimed he was losing money.

Bomba said "absolutely not" when asked yesterday if he had any intentions of closing the OTB outlet.

De Francis would say only that there were "problems with negotiations," but that the contract with Bomba had been extended until the end of the year.

Poor Jimmy's averages about $80,000 daily in bets, according to Maryland Jockey Club figures, split almost evenly between thoroughbred and harness simulcasts. While Poor Jimmy's ranks third in overall handle behind the Urbana and Colonial Beach parlors, it is the most successful harness outlet -- taking in $4.3 million this year, according to figures provided by Rosecroft/Delmarva.

Rosecroft/Delmarva president Ted Snell said yesterday that it's "very important" to the state's harness industry that Poor Jimmy's remains open.

In the meantime, Pimlico/Laurel has worked out a reciprocal deal with Delaware Park in which Maryland's thoroughbred races are simulcast daily at the Delaware track and Delaware's races are simulcast on Tuesday and Wednesday at Maryland's betting sites.

De Francis said so far it has had little impact on Poor Jimmy's business, indicating that the bulk of Poor Jimmy's business comes from Cecil and Harford counties.

John McDaniel, chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission, said yesterday that Poor Jimmy's is "a concern, because we want to attract more OTB operators to the network."

The commission has formed a subcommittee, chaired by John H. Mosner Jr., which is in the process of conducting an in-depth study of the entire off-track betting network.

McDaniel said that Poor Jimmy's would be among the first OTBs to be extensively analyzed. The board's executive director, Ken Schertle, said figures from Poor Jimmy's have been received both from Bomba and the Maryland Jockey Club.

"But they are only in working form and have not yet been assimilated," he said. He added it would be at least 30 days before the figures would be available to the public.

At its regular monthly meeting at Timonium yesterday, the commission granted rare permission to Rosecroft/Delmarva operators to ban a horse named Keystone Kim from racing tonight for betting purposes at the Fort Washington track.

Rosecroft officials are concerned that the horse's appearance would create between a $100,000 to $150,000 minus betting pool, costing the track more than $10,000 in lost revenues. The horse has won his past six starts and is the odds-on favorite to win the final leg of the Oxon Hill Trotting Series.

Snell, Rosecroft's president, said he is concerned where the large amount of money bet on the horse "would be coming from." In his last start, $20,000 was bet to win on the horse both in and out of state and created a $23,000 minus pool.

Keystone Kim will be allowed to race, but for purse money only. Betting will be conducted on the seven other horses in the race.

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