Slots gamble would pay off, says industry

On Horse Racing

February 25, 1996|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The Maryland racing industry now sees slot-machine gambling as a necessary ingredient for survival.

If officials can convince the powers of the state how badly they need it, the industry believes it will bounce back sharply again and perhaps become the nationwide leader.

"As we go through the [legislative] process, the need is going to be more and more apparent," said Dennis Dowd, president of Rosecroft Raceway. "We in racing will be able to focus once they see it.

"Personally, I don't see any need to wait one year for data. It's there now."

Maryland Jockey Club president Joe De Francis said Pimlico and Laurel Park can become showplaces of racing if the gaming legislation passes and machines are installed.

"With Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the new football stadium and $100 million worth of improvements at Pimlico, Baltimore could be unmatched in sports," he said.

De Francis fielded a passel of questions about the proposed slot machines at the tracks Friday: What about moral objections? Where would they be located? How about security? Hours of operation?

But, in his mind, the particulars are future problems. It boils down to this now:

"The future is either going to be very, very bright or much, much dimmer," he said. "There won't be any middle ground."

Stakes series set

A stakes series for 3-year-olds sponsored by Visa USA will entail 46 races through the Aug. 24 running of the Travers Stakes.

The series was created by the Thoroughbred Racing Associations and Triple Crown Productions to bring more identity to the division.

The three Triple Crown races will be the focal points of the series, followed by such important preps as the Santa Anita Derby, Florida Derby, Wood Memorial, Arkansas Derby and Blue Grass Stakes.

Horses will receive points for finishing first, second or third, with the amount depending on the grade of the race.

The winner of the points race will be crowned 3-year-old of the year. Six races have been run -- with six different winners.

Dover gets six more weeks

In a curious twist, the Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners Association, the horsemen who own Rosecroft Raceway, approved a six-week extension of the schedule for Dover Downs, a direct competitor.

That will add 20 more nights of head-to-head battling with a track that is siphoning off horses and bettors in droves from Rosecroft.

"Intellectually, it sits very poorly," said Rosecroft president Dowd. "I don't think it is a good business decision. But, as a practical matter, horsemen have to eat."

Many Cloverleaf members live in Delaware or on Maryland's Eastern Shore and are racing at Dover.

"It's part of the strangeness that is inherent in the relationship," said Dowd.

Cohen's old barn filled

The Maryland Jockey Club has purchased the barn on the Laurel Park far turn from the Israel Cohen estate. In turn, it was leased to Dale Lucas and Billy Turner for stalling.

"Their horses have filled the 44 stalls, so there is no more room," said Laurel-Pimlico vice president John Mooney.

More slots in Delaware

Another site in Delaware will have slot machines.

After months of squabbling, the State Fair Board has agreed to bring the machines to Harrington Raceway, which holds a harness meeting every fall.

Gaming Entertainment Delaware will build a $6 million gaming hall adjacent to the racetrack. The hall will be managed by Full House.

Connors gets award

Rosecroft-Delmarva publicist Jerry Connors is the recipient of the Allen J. Finkelson Golden Pen award for outstanding achievements in publicizing the sport.

The author of the U.S. Trotting Association's "Handicapping Beyond the Basics," Connors has worked for the USTA, Northfield Park, Brandywine Raceway, Liberty Bell Park and Foxboro Park.

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