OTB parlor gets reprieve of 3 months Poor Jimmy's #F extension hinges on improvements

December 23, 1998|By Lowell E. Sunderland | Lowell E. Sunderland,SUN STAFF

Poor Jimmy's, the beleaguered off-track betting parlor in Cecil County facing shutdown Dec. 31, received a conditional, three-month reprieve yesterday from the Maryland Racing Commission.

Commissioners agreed to let the OTB operation, managed by the Maryland Jockey Club in a separately run North East steakhouse, operate until the club's lease expires March 31 if certain repairs are made and furnishings are upgraded quickly.

Several commissioners and jockey club officials will meet at Poor Jimmy's during the first week of January to agree on a list of desired improvements.

"If the commission is not satisfied we will not continue to operate it," jockey club general counsel Martin Jacobs told commissioners at yesterday's meeting at the Timonium State Fairgrounds. The jockey club also operates Pimlico and Laurel ,, Park racetracks.

Jacobs proposed the three-month extension in return for addressing faults that commissioners cited a month ago in ordering the Dec. 31 shutdown. If the fixes are satisfactory, Poor Jimmy's yearlong OTB license could be renewed.

The jockey club also will supply its own manager, he said.

Immediate repairs include such matters as replacing missing floor tiles, replacing at least 57 ceiling tiles stained because of roof leaks that are said to have been fixed, and installing matching, upgraded furniture.

The club also will try to improve ventilation to offset complaints of bettors and others who have experienced a "smoke-filled room" atmosphere in the restaurant's OTB segment.

"There clearly is a smoke problem," Jacobs agreed, noting that a basement banquet room once used for OTB operations is being restored for use by non-smoking OTB patrons.

Racing officials say Poor Jimmy's, intended originally as a temporary OTB site, has been negatively affected by the introduction of slot machines at nearby Delaware tracks.

Yesterday's reprieve was the second the commission has granted the OTB operation in two years. In 1997, the commission demanded that repairs be made worth about $100,000, which Jacobs said yesterday was spent largely for roofing and repaving a parking lot.

Debate on keeping Poor Jimmy's as an OTB facility centered on the desire of Maryland racing interests to improve the image of the struggling sport in an attempt to woo more and younger fans.

Yesterday's debate also indicated that operators of at least two of Maryland's other four non-track OTB facilities are unhappy with what one called soaring expenses and, at best, betting handles that have plateaued.

The OTB operators, all of whom except for the jockey club are also restaurateurs, are to meet Jan. 6 at Laurel Park with jockey club officials over contractual arrangements, a meeting one restaurant owner said has taken two years to arrange.

Pub Date: 12/23/98

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