Glendening seeks study on health of state racing Slots position unchanged

industry says plan fails to address immediate problem

February 19, 1997|By Thomas W. Waldron and Michael Dresser | Thomas W. Waldron and Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Maryland should undertake an in-depth study of its racing industry in the coming months to assess whether the state should spend money to help the sport, Gov. Parris N. DTC Glendening said in a letter to a key lawmaker yesterday.

But the governor reiterated his position on gambling by asserting that any such study cannot lead to the introduction of slot machines at the tracks.

In a letter delivered yesterday to Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, who heads the Senate panel that oversees racing issues, Glendening said that any proposals to help the industry must be coupled with a strengthening of the state law that restricts the ability of track owners to move the Preakness Stakes out of Maryland.

"There already exists in state law restrictions on the removal of the Preakness from Maryland, but we should work together to find ways to strengthen those restrictions," Glendening said.

The letter sent a mixed message to representatives of the racing industry, who have hoped they could gain legislative approval for some financial relief during the current legislative session.

"We have an immediate problem. This is not an immediate solution," said Wayne Wright, executive secretary of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.

"It would be another year before the legislature could act on any recommendations and at least another six months before it became effective. The wolf is at the door now."

Racing industry representatives have been pushing for bringing slot machines to Maryland tracks to help the state compete with Delaware and West Virginia, which have given their tracks permission to operate slots.

Glendening has said he would veto any legislation that authorizes slots or casino-style gambling in the state.

Many legislators are expected to continue to push this year for legislation that would help the racing industry -- by repealing state taxes, for example.

Although Glendening has previously endorsed the need to study the industry, his letter gives details about just what might be considered. Among other things, the governor said the task force should:

Consider how much it would cost to refurbish Maryland's thoroughbred and harness tracks, and determine if state assistance would be "appropriate." Track officials have told legislators that it could cost some $150 million to fix up Laurel and Pimlico race courses.

Review the marketing efforts now being undertaken by the tracks.

Recommend changes in the current purse and taxation structure at the tracks. Several bills in the General Assembly would funnel state funds into purses at the tracks.

"A commission is not illogical, provided there is recognition there are some things that need to be looked at now," said Timothy T. Capps, executive vice president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association.

Pub Date: 2/19/97

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