Legislation that could bring improvements to the two Maryland horse racing tracks, Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park, has moved through the General Assembly.
Senate Bill 720 passed the state Senate by a 47-0 vote on Apr. 6. The bill also made its way through the House of Representatives by a vote of 132-2 on Apr. 10. The bill has been sent to Gov. Wes Moore’s desk. If signed into law, the legislation will take effect on Jun. 1.
The legislation will, among other things, create the Maryland Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority (MTROA). The entity will participate in developing racing and training facilities in the state. The MTROA will also oversee a new Maryland Racing Operations Fund.
Perfect timing for the Maryland horse racing bill
The legislation comes one month before the end of an extended negotiating process for a new racing agreement between:
- The Maryland Jockey Club
- Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (MTHA)
- Maryland Horse Breeders Association (MHBA)
The 10-year racing agreement ended on Dec. 31, 2022, and the parties extended the negotiation through June 2023.
The legislation also came during a lengthy renovation delay of Pimlico and Laurel Park as approved by the 2020 Racing and Community Development Act. The Racing and Community Development Act authorized nearly $375 million in bonds to pay for the renovations. That cost has almost doubled in the meantime.
SB 720 would give the authority the power to restart negotiations with the Stronach Group, the owner of the two racetracks. Together with the Maryland Stadium Authority, the new MTROA would lead that process and push renovations at Pimlico and Laurel Park.
Governor to appoint MTROA board members to develop Maryland tracks
Should Moore sign the bill, he will appoint five members of the MTROA as follows:
- One of two nominated by the MTHA
- One of two nominated by the MHBA
- Three other members with relevant industry experience
Other members are the MSA and MEDCO’s Chair or Executive Director. There will be:
- A member that is not an elected official appointed by the Senate President
- The one who is not an elected official appointed by the Speaker of the House
The Governor will also appoint three non-voting ex-officio members:
- One residing near Laurel
- Someone who resides near Pimlico
- Another who is located near the old Bowie Training Center.
The other non-voting ex-officio member will come from the Maryland Racing Commission.
The MRTOA will report to the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, the House Appropriations Committee and House Ways and Means Committee.