Thursday, January 25, 2007

Drawing the lines in the sand

The announcement today that the Pimlico Special will be cancelled has started the slots debate among the members of the general assembly in Annapolis. I don't have time for a full rant or post, so i will just pull out some quotes from the Baltimore Sun online.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller immediately seized on the news to renew his push for gambling. He remains resolute that slots must be part of the equation to solve the state's long-term budget woes, and he said if they are not legalized immediately, the Maryland horse racing industry will be lost.
"Everything is a downhill spiral for racing until they get these video lottery terminals at the tracks," Miller said today. "The purses can benefit, but mostly the state benefits, because the profits don't go to the owners; the profits go to the state, and we can build schools here in the state of Maryland instead of letting personal disposable money go to [West] Virginia, Delaware and Western Pennsylvania."
It is not a debate the newly elected governor, Martin O'Malley, wants to have in his first legislative session. O'Malley nominally supports slots at racetracks to save the industry, and he took thousands in contributions from gambling interests in the last few weeks to help retire debt from his campaign. But he did not introduce a slots bill, and he said last week that he wants to spend this 90-day General Assembly session working on other things.
Maryland Jockey Club President and Chief Operating Officer Lou Raffetto testified before the Senate Finance Committee that canceling the race was a painful decision and probably not the only one the horse industry will have to make soon. Raffetto said he expects the Jockey Club, which runs the Pimlico and Laurel race courses, will have to cut racing dates by 20 percent next year, dropping from 180 to about 145. "It's not what we want to do," he said. "It's what we may be driven to do." Raffetto and other racing officials did not suggest that the Preakness Stakes would be at risk -- a perennial threat to stoke the slots fires -- but they said the entire industry in Maryland is on the brink of collapse.

It should be an interesting few weeks for Maryland racing.

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