Racing commission frustrated in bid for phone betting

May 19, 1999|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Racing Commission, concerned about losing money to Pennsylvania racetracks that offer telephone betting accounts, is pushing to establish a competing service here.

At a meeting yesterday, the commission expressed frustration that regulations that would permit telephone wagering in Maryland have languished at the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

The commission had received no reply to its May 10 letter requesting the department give it a status report.

"It's aggravating to me that we are not moving forward," said Maryland trainer Bill Boniface, who attended the meeting held at the Darlington farm of Frank Hopkins, a commission member.

Hopkins expressed frustration at the lack of action by DLLR but said, "We're a state body, and we can't tell the boss what to do."

The General Assembly authorized telephone betting in 1984 but, with little interest by anyone in starting an operation, nothing was done.

Last year, after some Pennsylvania tracks had begun to make headway into the Maryland market with telephone betting services originating from Philadelphia Park, the commission drafted regulations that would allow an operation to be set up in Maryland.

However, it does not have the authority to approve the rules and must wait for other parts of state government to proceed.

The issue was caught in the crossfire of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's feud with the owner of Pimlico and Laurel Park. Glendening ordered no expansion of gambling until a commission he appointed could study the industry.

That commission has issued several reports on various aspects of the industry.

A DLLR spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.

Also at yesterday's meeting, the commissioners received draft regulations to govern the creation of a new track license. The General Assembly this spring approved the creation of a track in Western Maryland.

William M. Rickman, president of Delaware Park and a resident of Montgomery County, attended yesterday's meeting and said he intends to file an application for a license in the next 60 days. He is still scouting sites to build the track.

Rickman also filed with the commission a letter objecting to plans by the owners of Pimlico and Laurel to open an off-track betting facility in Elkton to replace the oft-maligned Poor Jimmy's OTB.

Rickman, citing federal law, said Delaware Park's permission must be received before a betting facility can be opened within 60 miles of its facility in Wilmington.

Rickman said he would accept an off-track facility if it were at least 35 miles away or is operated at Poor Jimmy's, which is in the Cecil County town of North East.

Pub Date: 5/19/99

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