With harsh language for the owners of Maryland's major thoroughbred racetracks, a horse racing study commission issued a report yesterday that called for short-term subsidies and a long-term look at building a new track with state money.
"We share the widespread dissatisfaction expressed to us concerning the current management and physical condition of thoroughbred track facilities," wrote the commission, known as the Janney Commission because of its chairman, Stuart S. Janney III.
"There are many broad strategic issues that must be addressed if Maryland racing is to ascend to the `major league' of thoroughbred racing," the report says.
The 12-member commission discussed, but stopped short of recommending, elimination of the statutory monopoly protection given the Maryland Jockey Club, owner of Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park. However, a single-page "minority report" did so, noting "a general concern about the financial and management capabilities of the Maryland Jockey Club." It was signed by Janney and four others.
Joseph A. De Francis, president of the jockey club, did not respond to a request for comment.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening has called for a elimination of the monopoly and that otherwise he would not support state aid. A measure to permit a new track in Western Maryland, championed by house Speaker Casper Taylor Jr., is being debated in Annapolis.
The commission suggested possible construction of a publicly owned track in conjunction with a new home for the State Fair, which is outgrowing its site in Timonium.
The commission said the sport needs a Camden Yards-class track and that public money may not be available to sufficiently upgrade privately owned facilities.
While calling for more analysis, the commissioners wrote: "We do, however, believe that Maryland racing has stagnated and that a fresh approach is needed."
They also suggested a "detailed discussion" of relocating the training barns from Pimlico and making it an all-racing facility friendlier to fans.
The report also called for:
$20 million in purse supplements and $1.5 million in matching funds for marketing. A measure to accomplish this is before the General Assembly, but its future is in doubt due to a rift between Glendening and De Francis.
Regulations to permit telephone wagering.
Implementation of an industry-developed revenue-sharing plan to settle festering disputes between harness and thoroughbred tracks and horsemen.
Pub Date: 3/20/99