Wolff, the Alexandria economist and gambler, disagrees. He says his studies have shown that for every percentage-point rise in takeout, the handle drops 7 percent to 8 percent.
"It's a competitive world out there," Wolff said. "Horse players can play anywhere they want. This is another good reason to choose somewhere other than Maryland."
One gambler in Laurel Park's Kelso Club, the track's private room for its biggest bettors, complained yesterday about the increased takeout - but said that isn't the biggest problem with Maryland racing.
Vince Campanella, a 55-year-old bettor from Fulton, said that he bets about $3,000 per day on Laurel races. The higher takeout will cost him anywhere from $15,000 to $18,000 per year, he said.
"I'm not pleased about it, obviously," he said. "My first reaction is that I'll bet less on Maryland races and concentrate more on New York and California."
He said a consideration at least as important as takeout is the number of horses in each race at Laurel. Larger fields produce higher odds and more betting opportunities, he said.
"The fields here are horrible," Campanella said. "It's pathetic. You've got six-, seven-horse fields every race. I'm passing a third of the races already because of it."
John Franzone, chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission, said that he understands.
"All the things they say are valid," Franzone said. "But what's their option? If we're going to grow the sport in Maryland, there's a lot that needs to be done to both of these facilities. There's got to be an investment to upgrade these facilities to make them viable."