Maryland stakeholders reach racing accord for rest of ’23
Maryland racing will continue through the second half of 2023 under an agreement announced by Maryland Jockey Club acting president Mike Rogers at Tuesday’s meeting of the state Racing Commission at Laurel Park.
The agreement, to which the MJC, which owns the tracks, Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, and Maryland Horse Breeders Association are parties, is a six-month extension of their current accord. Both are modified extensions of the 10-year agreement governing racing, which expired at the end of 2022.
The agreement was reached after an extended period of negotiations and occasional saber-rattling. Rogers termed himself “very pleased” about the accord.
The agreement clears the way for racing to continue past June 30, and the Commission today approved racing at Laurel, whose summer meet opens June 9, to continue through August 24. It will then shift to Timonium for its brief, seven-day stand spread over two weekends.
Though details were not provided, it is expected that under the agreement horsemen and breeders will provide millions of dollars in subsidies to the track. That would continue a practice enshrined in the original 10-year agreement and in the most recent extension.
Rogers told the Commission he was “not at liberty to talk about the details” of the agreement. Alan Foreman, an attorney who is general counsel to the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, acknowledged the subsidies but pointed to the longstanding nature of the practice, which he said helped stabilize the state’s racing industry.
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“The horsemen and breeders have been helping to subsidize the racetrack [for years],” he said. “That’s no secret. There’s nothing new here.”
The Commission has not yet reviewed the agreement and thus did not approve it.
By the time the agreement expires at the end of December, the newly created Maryland Racetrack Operating Authority is expected to have provided the state legislature a report comprising a “a review of best practices for thoroughbred industry operating models” and recommendations on what model would work best for Maryland. That report could – and some industry insiders hope it will – point to a very different approach to racing in the state.
The Commission is represented by one ex officio non-voting member on the Authority. It named new commissioner George Mahoney to fill that role at today’s meeting.
Those were among several actions the Commission took during a busy meeting. The Commission also approved a pair of proposed regulations:
- One would turn a voluntary aftercare assessment on claims into a mandatory program. If ultimately approved, it would add a 1.5% surcharge to the price of a claimed horse. MTHA executive director David Richardson told the Commission that, had the rule been mandatory iin 2022, it would have raised an additional $38,000 for aftercare.
- The second would allow a trainer to enter up to three horses in a race. Current rules limit trainers to not more than two runners in a race.
During the Pimlico meet, the MJC had announced it would shut down the off-track betting facility at Pimlico after June 30. Rogers today said that the company had “pressed the pause button” on that decision.
The reason to leave, he said, was that “guests have migrated to other locations.” In 2021, according to Commission data, Pimlico handled just less than $11.3 million in simulcast wagering – down from more than $15 million in 2017. Meanwhile, the Timonium OTB handled over $15 million, and the Horseshoe, in downtown Baltimore, handled $9.1 million.