Maryland lawmakers are considering amending a routine bill to establish a new governing body with complete authority over Maryland horse racing.
The decision comes from the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee to help improve racetracks in Maryland. Tracks include Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park Racetrack.
New bill would amend the Maryland Horse Racing Act
The proposed amendments would establish the Maryland Thoroughbred Operating Authority (MTOA).
The group would oversee a new Maryland Racing Operations Fund, including money from the existing Racing and Community Development Facilities Fund. The community development funds are used for track improvements.
The bill, Senate Bill 720, is a simple reauthorization extending the sunset date of the Maryland Horse Racing Act, which is the law governing horse racing in Maryland. The extension of SB 720 is for ten years until 2034.
Democratic Senator Guy J. Guzzone, chair of Budget and Taxation, circulated a 10-page reprint of the bill to committee members Monday.
According to Maryland Matters, lawmakers needed more time to hear an explanation or thoroughly discuss the amendments before an evening Senate floor session. The committee planned on discussing the bill today.
Speaking before the committee, Guzzone said:
“All I want right now is to — just get an initial look at the race track bill that’s before us and the amendments that have come in, which are significant from what it was.”
Under the proposal, the MTOA would only exist for four years and one month.
High redevelopment costs for racetracks at the root of change
As redevelopment costs increase, track upgrade plans have fallen to the side. Additionally, some experts speculate that only one of the two Maryland racetracks can survive. Many believe the primary focus has shifted to saving Pimlico, home of the Preakness Stakes.
The Preakness Stakes is one race that makes up horse racing’s Triple Crown.
Several scenarios have been going around, including closing Laurel Park. However, Pimlico is only large enough to house about 450 horse stalls. As a result, Pimlico would need additional funding for a new training facility and track with room for an extra 1,150 horse stalls.
Although nothing is set in stone, lawmakers have worked alongside industry experts to develop the lengthy amendments. The Maryland General Assembly adjourns at midnight this coming Monday.