Md. Gov. Hogan orders tracks closed to “general public”

by | Mar 15, 2020 | Breaking, Business, Maryland, MD Business, Top Stories

Laurel Park

A lonely vigil at Laurel Park on March 14. Photo by Allison Janezic.

In a sign of the seriousness of the fast-moving coronavirus crisis, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Sunday issued an order closing all racetracks and casinos to “the general public.” That order builds on a March 12 order that had prohibited “large gatherings and events” at which 250 or more people were expected.

In the early afternoon Sunday, Maryland Jockey Club officials were continuing to assess the order.

The MJC said via text that “decisions on the continuation of live racing after the conclusion of live racing on Sunday, March 15, are still being clarified.”

While the March 12 order had been general in its application, the Sunday follow-up applies specifically to casinos and racetracks, including Laurel Park, Pimlico, Timonium, and Fair Hill, as well as the harness tracks, Ocean Downs and Rosecroft. It also applies to off-track betting facilities and the state’s half-dozen casinos.

“All areas of the Gaming and Racing Facilities otherwise open to the general public for gaming, betting, wagering, and other similar activities… are hereby closed to the general public,” the order reads in part.

The order is effective March 16 and remains so until “the state of emergency has been terminated.” Those who “knowingly and willfully” violate the order may be subject to a year’s imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000.

Hogan also underlined Sunday how seriously his administration is taking the virus. On Twitter, he wrote, “It is critical to public health and safety that bars, restaurants, and other non-essential businesses across the state comply with the executive order prohibiting mass gatherings. Failure to follow this order is a crime, and will be enforced if businesses do not comply.”

Laurel Park has raced during the March 13-15 weekend without permitting fans to attend. Only licensed horsemen — owners, trainers, grooms, hotwalkers, etc. — as well as credentialed media were permitted on the grounds. Rosecroft Raceway last raced Wednesday, prior to Hogan’s initial order. It is also slated to race Sunday evening, also without fans.

Parx Racing near Philadelphia is one of just a handful of Thoroughbred racetracks that have already decided to cancel racing during the emergency. The track did not race Saturday, its first cancellation. Arizona’s Turf Paradise has canceled its meet, which was slated to run until May, altogether. Other small racetracks, including Fairmount Park in Illinois, and Mahoning Valley in Ohio have also announced schedule modifications as a result of the coronavirus.

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About The Author

Frank Vespe

Frank Vespe, the founder and publisher of The Racing Biz, has owned, bought, sold, claimed, written, and talked about horses, in varying combinations, for a decade. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on twitter @TheRacingBiz.

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