Maryland is fortunate to be a state with a long history rich in traditions - including the horse racing industry, which dates back to the Colonial era. The Maryland Jockey Club is almost 250 years old. In 1771, George Washington wrote that he came to Annapolis to watch and bet on the Maryland horse races. Saturday, the Preakness Stakes will be run for the 134th time.
As other professional sports have evolved and prospered in our state, we have slowly started to lose this tradition upon which much of our agricultural heritage is founded. But more than mere history, the industry contributes in concrete ways: almost $2 billion to our economy, 9,000 jobs, and almost 700,000 acres of open space land to the betterment of our state.
To survive, the horse racing industry must capture the interest of a younger generation of fans more often than once a year during the Preakness. Revitalizing the industry will likely require a consolidation of horse racing assets and activities, allowing a greater focus with the limited resources available to market to and attract new fans. Additionally, state leaders must be willing to make the kind of commitment to support the industry that other states have made.
Preserving horse racing is about more than the industry itself. It is about jobs, the environment, and our history as a state. Replacing open fields and lands associated with horse racing with sprawl and strip malls will reduce the quality of life for all Marylanders, regardless of whether they consider themselves horse racing fans.
Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. is president of the Maryland Senate. His e-mail is email@example.com.