ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Horse racing representatives on Wednesday agreed to a plan that would allow a full season of 146 days of racing in Maryland and keep the Preakness Stakes in the state.
Joseph Bryce, Gov. Martin O’Malley’s chief legislative officer, met for nearly an hour with industry representatives, track owners, horseman and breeders to work out details in the governor’s office.
The meeting was held a day after the state’s racing commission voted to reject a proposal to conduct live racing next year by the owners of Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore — home of the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown. The vote threw the future of horse racing in Maryland into doubt.
The agreement still needs approval by the Maryland Racing Commission.
“I think that the governor’s intent and the intent of the parties is to resolve this as soon as possible, imminently, in order to provide assurances to the people that work in this industry that they don’t have to worry about this as they enter the holiday season,” Bryce said.
A key component of the plan calls for redirecting $3.5 million to $4 million of the state’s slot machine proceeds to pay for operating costs instead of capital improvements, Bryce said. Money would be secured through a loan, and the money would be repaid through the racetrack renewal account. Under the state’s slot machine law, 2.5 percent of state proceeds are directed to racetrack renewal, capped at $40 million a year. Horsemen also would contribute $1.7 million.
“Over the next several hours, the parties will put in writing a proposal for consideration by the racing commission,” O’Malley said in a statement after the meeting. “Today’s agreement not only keeps Maryland’s treasured Preakness Stakes where it belongs, but it helps protect the thousands of jobs that depend on our rich history of horse racing.”
Alan Foreman, a lawyer for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said the agreement solves short-term problems to save jobs while creating breathing room to work on long-term solutions for the troubled industry.
“It’s an agreement that works for everyone in 2011 and addresses everyone’s needs and gives us the opportunity to work long-term,” Foreman said after the meeting.
Steven Snyder, senior vice president of corporate development for Penn National Gaming Inc., which co-owns Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course with MI Developments, said he hoped the commission would approve the agreement in the next 24 hours.
“I’m hoping that we can get it by the end of the day, but the hope would be certainly before Christmas,” Snyder said after the meeting.