Partnership needed to aid horse racing Industry comeback: Marketing sport will require cooperation of state, feuding parties.

November 29, 1998

A UNIVERSITY of Maryland consultant put his finger on a major problem this state's troubled horse-racing industry must confront: It lacks a unified plan for marketing the sport.

But that shouldn't come as a surprise. The fractious racing community has rarely come together to unite behind anything.

At the moment, harness horse owners are blocking approval of a revenue-sharing plan on intertrack wagering that could be a key to profitability. Meanwhile, thoroughbred and harness-track owners remain at odds over where to locate off-track betting facilities.

And there is little hope for a united front from the industry on how the state should inject new life into this important Maryland industry.

A commission now led by horse owner Stuart S. Janney II expects to make short-term recommenda- tions to the governor in early January. More state aid to raise purses for winning horses and to promote the sport seems the logical step.

That would be the best way for Gov. Parris N. Glendening to pump up the industry and dampen demands for slot machines at Maryland tracks to compete with the wildly successful slots at Delaware and West Virginia tracks.

The state may have to play a bigger role, though: Bringing together diverse racing interests to agree on a strategic marketing plan and joint efforts to boost their sport.

That is imperative if this sport -- which dates from Maryland's colonial era -- is to rebound.

State government long has been a silent partner in Maryland racing. It micromanages much of what happens at the tracks, strictly regulating wagering and other activities.

Now is the time for the state to become a more active -- and demanding -- partner.

Reviving racing in this state would pay off handsomely in protecting jobs and enhancing state revenues.

Pub Date: 11/29/98

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