Glendening backs study panel over financial help to industry Governor opposes bills, drawing De Francis' wrath

March 19, 1997|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

The Glendening administration told Maryland legislators yesterday that it opposes giving money to help the horse-racing industry this year and made clear it would only support creation of a commission to study the issue.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening told reporters earlier in the day that he understood the concerns of the industry, but said he wants to find a "long-term" plan to help.

Glendening said, for example, that a study would look at the industry's marketing efforts and find ways to appeal to younger fans.

He also said he was against any short-term financial fixes, such as increasing purses at state tracks in an effort to keep them competitive with those at Delaware tracks, where slot-machine revenues have boosted purses dramatically.

"To me, that's just a subsidy that puts money down a black hole," Glendening said.

In written testimony to the Senate Finance Committee, the administration formally opposed legislation that would increase purses -- comments that infuriated racing officials, who offered dire predictions should the state fail to step in.

"For the governor to oppose these specific pieces of legislation that would put money into purses is an absolute travesty," Joseph A. De Francis, principal owner of Pimlico and Laurel race courses, told the committee. "To appoint another commission is absolutely ridiculous."

Senate leaders, too, disagreed with the administration's assessment.

"While there is a need for the study piece, we need to prop up the purses for a year or maybe two," said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, D-Baltimore, who chairs the Budget and Taxation Committee.

Hoffman and Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, the Baltimore County Democrat who chairs the Finance Committee, said they are hoping to find a way to put about $15 million into the budget to increase purses both for thoroughbred and Standardbred racing.

Meanwhile, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller confirmed what had become apparent in recent weeks, saying he will not introduce legislation this session to legalize slot machines at the tracks.

Pub Date: 3/19/97

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