Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Toughest Card to Handicap

If you thought the Breeders Cup card was tough to handicap, you should see the program at this weeks (Maryland legislative) special session in Annapolis. Every state tax is on the table, but this time it appears that slots will be a go. Governor Martin O'Malley is trying to prove that the only way to reverse the deficit is through slots and taxes. I will not get into the political stuff about the taxes, but let me share my views on the slots and horses.

The locations for the machines are not set in stone, but it looks like the only horse racing venue will be Laurel Park. Laurel Park is in a commercially zoned area off of major highways , between Baltimore and Washington DC. This is a good location! At first, Baltimore City and its interim mayor fought against slots located anywhere in Baltimore City. Then the governor endorsed the interim mayor (who replaced him when he became governor) in the upcoming election, and things changed. One of the proposed slot locations in in Baltimore city, a few blocks south-east from the football and baseball stadium. Now I ask, if you are going to allow slot machines in the city, why not at Pimlico? The Pimlico area and the neighborhood people need a renaissance. What better way to revitalize a neighborhood than with jobs, improved infrastructure, and an influx of capital. (side note - the area around the famed Pimlico Race Course resembles Berlin circa 1945. Burned out building, row homes collapsing, and roads that appear to have been paved about the same time we were bombing the Germans).

Now for the good news!!!!

With all of this talk about taxes, a referendum for slots, and a host of other fiscal concerns, the horse industry seems to be on the sunny side of the debates. The $100 million annual subsidy to the industry is still on the table. This is a lot of money for purses, owner and breeder incentives, and events. Now for the questions.......Will the quality of racing increase with increased purses? Will more fans come out to watch these higher quality races? Will all of this save the struggling horse racing industry in Maryland?

Stay tuned!


Anonymous said...

Please don't equate attendance with success any more. Equate success with handle, that will be the barometer.

alan said...

Baloo - If the slots plan passes, would the $100 million subsidy then be revoked? According to the Baltimore Sun, the slots are projected to raise $128 million a year to the industry. But if there's no longer a subsidy, is it all worth it for the extra $28 mil? And that's if the projections don't prove to be over optimistic as they have in other states.

Baloo said...

Alan - As of today it appears that the subsidy will be revoked/replaced with the slot machine revenue. It gets real tricky with the wording here because the slots revenue will probably not start rolling in until FY 2010. What happens between then and now? Hopefully all of this will be addressed on Friday. Unfortunately, the wording on all of these items may be the stumbling blocks in Annapolis. I'll do my best to keep everyone posted.


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