A stalking horse, not a real racehorse

Allegany track: Commission decision won't help struggling state sport, horse racing industry.

November 29, 2001

THE MARYLAND Racing Commission's approval of a new racetrack in Allegany County will further handicap an already hobbled industry in this state.

The award of a license to two members of the powerful William Rickman family for the small track near Little Orleans was based on politics, not on good economics or the betterment of the sport.

Thank House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., Del. John A. Hurson (chairman of the House Environmental Matters Committee) and even Gov. Parris Glendening for the decision.

Oh, yes, and the battling factions of Maryland horse racing, which refuse to agree on anything healthy for the sport.

As a pure racing facility, the remote Western Maryland track with perhaps three weeks of races is not economically viable, according to analysts.

That leaves off-track betting parlors and slot machines -- or casinos -- as the only practical means to make the new facility profitable.

Which means that this "racetrack" would be a sham, a stalking horse for the Rickmans to use to leverage approval for other, lucrative gambling operations.

Maryland horse racing wouldn't be helped by the new track. The few races and the small purses (without outside gambling subsidy) wouldn't be attractive to state horsemen.

Besides, there's mounting evidence that there are already too many racing days in Maryland, and that horses are raced too frequently in this state.

The track still needs various state and local permits and approvals. And there's ample local opposition that should be mobilized to block this project. If the track were completed and opened, it would only dilute and undermine an already struggling Maryland industry.

"What is this about, if it's not about carving out territory?" asks one Allegany County opponent. That's what the commission should have asked.

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