CHESAPEAKE CITY -- Representatives of the Maryland Jockey Club and Poor Jimmy's Restaurant in Cecil County will huddle this afternoon to try to hammer out an agreement that would allow the restaurant to continue operating as an off-track betting facility beyond the March 31 expiration of its license.
That was the outcome of a lively give-and-take session at the monthly Maryland Racing Commission meeting yesterday at posh Winbak Farm (formerly Windfields), one of the largest breeding operations in America.
"We will not stay there without making substantial improvements," said Maryland Jockey Club executive counsel Marty Jacobs. "We will have a facility in Cecil County within a few months, but I can't say where."
Poor Jimmy's is a vital element in the Maryland wagering system because of its proximity to Delaware, where slot machine revenues have fueled higher purses and stiff competition for the racing dollar. Customers of Poor Jimmy's will have no choice but to go to the neighboring state if the operation is shut down.
The second-largest (to the Cracked Claw) OTB in the state, Poor Jimmy's produces annual wagering revenue of more than $250,000.
The racing panel voted not to renew Poor Jimmy's license because of non-compliant conditions at the restaurant, which have run the gamut from poor restroom facilities to inadequate separation of smoking and non-smoking areas. Then, the jockey club decided not to apply for an extension of the permit.
Members of the Bomba family, which owns Poor Jimmy's, argued before the panel that their operation is "self-sufficient" and that the problem does not warrant "shutting down the business."
At the root of the matter are the questions of which side would pay for the needed improvements and the division of revenue. The impasse has distressed the commission, which views the problem as internal.
"They were closed in non-compliance," said chairman John Franzone. "If the two parties can't agree, they don't have a lease."
NOTES: The commission approved a change in regulations to allow a jockey agent to handle three riders, one more than currently permitted. The OTB site at Port Tobacco will be allowed to charge a $5 attendance fee for the Triple Crown events. Fifty-eight live and 12 simulcast days were approved for Pimlico Race Course starting March 31, and the summer stakes schedule at Laurel drew little discussion. Cloverleaf Enterprises received approval of an amendment that will extend from 30 to 60 days the restrictive period for sale or transfer of a claimed horse or for racing a claimed horse outside the state. The waiting period remains 30 days for horses running at Ocean Downs. Discussion without action centered on the cancellation of large-amount betting tickets at the bell (close of wagering of a specific race) and on the penalties for owners and trainers in the excessive use of Butazolidin.
Pub Date: 3/24/99