Md. Racetrack Operating Authority report deadline delayed

The Maryland Racetrack Operating Authority’s deadline to submit its report to the state General Assembly has been pushed back to January 5, more than a month after the original December 1 deadline.

The delay was originally reported by the Daily Racing Form. It has been confirmed by The Racing Biz

“There’s just a lot of moving parts right now. We need more time,” explained Alan Foreman, who represents the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (MTHA) on the Authority. “Between issues related to the training center sites, the Pimlico plan, getting cost estimates, there’s just a lot of moving parts and they haven’t all come together yet.”

The Authority was created by the General Assembly in 2023 and charged with submitting a report identifying two or more potential training center sites, updating the legislature on the status of the project to rebuild Pimlico and Laurel, and recommending the proper operating model for Maryland racing going forward.

Given the thorny nature of the issues at hand, the December 1 deadline was always ambitious. Foreman said that he expected that once the report is drafted, the Authority will hold a meeting to approve it and then convey it to the General Assembly.

There is generally widespread agreement in the industry that it makes sense for Maryland to shrink to one primary racetrack. Because of political considerations, that is expected to be Pimlico, but because Pimlico is too small to house the consolidated industry, it will necessitate the creation of a training center.

Two other areas are expected to be more challenging, however. One is money; the original version of the capital project, which would have entailed rebuilding Laurel Park as the day-to-day center of racing and Pimlico as the home of the Preakness, would have been more than $100 million, and perhaps more than $300 million, over budget. With Pimlico expected to cost in the neighborhood of $300 million, the original $375 million is expected to be insufficient.

The other is the future of the industry more broadly. In competing presentations to the Operating Authority, the Maryland Jockey Club and MTHA outlined starkly different visions. The MJC proposed halving the number of racing days and receiving a share of slot machine revenue currently dedicated to purses. For its part, the MTHA suggested a future without MJC parent company 1/ST Racing, replacing them with a nonprofit model such as followed by NYRA and at Del Mar.

All of those questions will have to be resolved in the Authority’s report. And the work of implementing its recommendations may be even more challenging.

But Foreman said he is optimistic.

“There’s lots of issues, but I’ve said it publicly: I’m optimistic,” he said. “We’ve been at a standstill, but I believe we’re going to be prepared to really jumpstart this program.”