Band-Aid for racetracks

$10 million grant: Money for purses helps, but more depends on improvement plans by track owners.

April 30, 1999

NO SOLUTION for Maryland's troubled racing industry emerged from this year's General Assembly. The $10 million grant to state tracks will keep purses stable, but won't come near matching the money paid to owners of winning horses at slots-rich Delaware racetracks. More promising is the commitment from Maryland track owners to present substantial improvement plans to the governor and legislature by late spring.

Of particular concern is the future of historic Pimlico Race Course, home of the second leg in racing's Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes. More than sprucing up is required. Owners should take this opportunity to present a vision for transforming the facility into more than just a racetrack for three months of the year.

Pimlico's owners must take the first concrete steps along that road without state assistance. Once a major improvement program is well under way, partnership arrangements with the city and state become more realistic.

Much has been made of the legislature's creation of a racing license for a track in Allegany County, home of House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. This action won't have any immediate impact on racing in the Baltimore-Washington region. It could bolster Western Maryland's appeal as a tourist destination -- if someone is willing to pour millions into a track far from this state's population centers.

Maryland's racing industry desperately needs to develop a unified voice and a long-term plan that can win favor with the governor and legislators.

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