Two sides near agreement on division of slots Three tracks, other sites would split 9,500 devices

February 24, 1996|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The thoroughbred and standardbred industries have moved closer to agreement on the distribution of proposed slot machines and the revenue they would produce in Maryland.

Under legislation introduced in the House of Delegates yesterday, some 9,500 such gaming devices would be installed at Laurel Park, Pimlico Race Course, Rosecroft Raceway and three facilities to be determined.

Rosecroft objected to the original proposal, which called for an 80-20 percentage split in favor of the thoroughbred tracks and 3,000 fewer machines for the harness track (Laurel was to get 3,000, Pimlico 1,000 and Rosecroft 1,000) -- also a 4-1 deficit for Rosecroft.

"It's down to one issue, the number of machines at the different locations," said Rosecroft president Dennis Dowd. "There has been movement in the right direction. I'm confident there will be a satisfactory resolution."

Joe De Francis, president of the Maryland Jockey Club, has compromised in one area, permitting Rosecroft to retain all applicable percentages of the money taken in there.

Profits generated at Laurel and Pimlico would go to thoroughbred interests and, at off-track sites, the thoroughbred sector would receive 80 percent.

De Francis outlined the Maryland Racing and Electronic Gaming Act yesterday at Pimlico, where he also introduced most members of the Baltimore media to the $100 million renovation he has planned if and when the slots measure is passed.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening reiterated this week that he will oppose slot-machine legislation this year while he analyzes data from Delaware that indicates how slot machines there affect the Maryland horse industry.

"Unlike his opposition to casino gambling, I don't think he is as opposed to the concept of slots [at the tracks] as he is to the timing," said De Francis."

The tracks are trying to convince legislators and the governor that action is needed as soon as possible to prevent horsemen from defecting to Delaware Park, which opens in April, for rapidly increasing purse money.

"The situation is only going to get worse," said De Francis. "We're like a patient in the hospital and every day we're getting sicker and sicker."

He projects that Rosecroft -- which has been ravaged by purse increases at in-operation Dover Downs -- may be unable to stay open next year.

"We [thoroughbreds] won't die tomorrow, but by the 21st century it could happen."

Recent reports said bettors wagered $68.5 million on the Delaware slots in their first month of operation, a figure 75 percent greater than officials' projections.

Delaware Park and Dover Downs retained $8.3 million before deducting expenses and the state's take.

Dover Downs already has exceeded Rosecroft's daily purse distribution and Delaware Park could overtake Pimlico and Laurel next year if Maryland does not install slots.

"We hope to get a bill passed this year and we hope to convince the governor to sign it into law," said De Francis. "If not, all this is an educational process for next year."

Slots breakdown

Joe De Francis said "conservative projections" indicate a $1 ++ billion annual gross from the proposed slot machines in Maryland. The bill would impose a 25 percent tax on those receipts, allocated thusly:

* 10.5 percent to the state to pay for the costs of regulation; it would go to the General Fund. Estimate: $100.5 million.

* 1 percent for facilities, services and redevelopment in communities immediately surrounding the tracks. Estimate: $10 million.

* 2.5 percent to Baltimore or the county where each facility is located. Estimate: $25 million.

* 1 percent to counties where no facilities are located, pro-rated based upon the counties' populations. Estimate: $10 million.

* 10 percent to thoroughbred and standardbred purses and breeders' funds, proportionately allocated. Estimate: $100 million.

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