A dispute between the Maryland Jockey Club and Anne Arundel County — in which Laurel Park is located — has led the county to threaten to auction off the property to recover millions of dollars in unpaid utility fees it claims it is owed. Were it to go forward, the auction would occur on Tuesday.
But, said Maryland Jockey Club (MJC) president and chief operating officer Tom Chuckas in an interview Sunday, that dispute will not impact racing or the ownership of the century-old track.
“The track will not go to the auction,” Chuckas said. “The track will be retained by the Maryland Jockey Club and the Stronach Group, and this should be resolved Monday.”
The disagreement, now several years old, stems from plans the track had developed when it seemed likely to obtain the Anne Arundel County license to operate slot machines. At that time, the Maryland Jockey Club, through the Laurel Racing Association subsidiary that operates Laurel Park, had proposed a mixed-use complex involving a large casino, hotel, and other amenities, as well as the racetrack. County landowners are required to pay to reserve water capacity when developing or redeveloping property.
With the county’s lone casino located at Arundel Mills Mall, rather than at Laurel, those plans have not come to fruition.
“There’s debate between the county and the racetrack over what’s the proper and appropriate assessment for water and sewer,” Chuckas explained.
Anne Arundel County had initially claimed that the MJC owed $24 million, an amount that it has subsequently revised downward several times. County officials have said that an MJC payment of approximately $2 million would head off the auction.
Today, an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge will hear the Laurel Racing Association’s request for an order restraining the County from auctioning off the property. If it succeeds, the parties will presumably continue to negotiate over what Laurel owes the county. If it fails, the MJC will have to pay the approximately $2 million to prevent the auction from going forward.
Either way, Chuckas said, horsemen and racing fans shouldn’t worry.
“Bottom line: the track will remain in the Stronach Family and the Maryland Jockey Club’s hands,” he said.
And as to the fall meet?
“We’ll see you September 5th,” he added.