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An influx of slots money with a casino at a racetrack would solve many problems, but legislators and those in the industry are aware that the process is complicated.

The state is requiring the horse racing industry to come up with a long-term plan for sustainability that “cannot take into account any slots revenue,” Mr. Chuckas said.

The Maryland Jockey Club is considering a plan for fewer days of live racing, down from the current number of 146 days per year. Mr. Chuckas said that plan is not feasible unless other changes are made.

“The Maryland Jockey Club could create a plan that would make it profitable. That plan would call for a reduction in dates,” he said. “They’re looking for a year-round industry. … [But] the current stream of revenues does not support year-round racing.”

Mr. Foreman said a shorter racing schedule might be considered because the regional horse shortage is “becoming very acute.”

The futures of Pimlico and Laurel Park could be uncertain as well after this “respite” that ends in 2013. Decisions on the future of the industry won’t be made until this summer, and Mr. Chuckas said it’s fair to consider “every thought and idea” on the table.

The most devastating possibility would be losing the Preakness, which would mean Maryland “would lose a place in history,” Ms. Goodall said. Although that’s unlikely given the race’s paramount importance to the state, the Preakness’ departure — even years in the future — could do irreparable damage.

“You’d never get another Preakness or even a comparable race to come back,” Ms. Goodall said.

For now, though, Maryland is relying on the Preakness as the bastion of horse racing in part to keep the entire industry afloat.

‘Shot in the arm’

Other states have found quicker, more efficient solutions to generate money for horse racing through slots, but the industry at large is in flux and in danger.

Decades removed from being the only readily available place to gamble, racetracks have fallen victim to slots and lotteries. More recently, many of their patrons have been placing bets on the Internet instead of visiting racetracks.

“It’s obvious that the slots are a help,” Ms. Napravnik said. “And they’re kind of a little bit of a Band-Aid, because really what we need is horse racing fans and people betting on the horses. You don’t see people in-house as much. The crowds, on a daily basis, aren’t very big.”

As much as Pimlico could use renovations and Maryland horse racing could use a boost, “everybody needs a shot in the arm,” Mr. Motion said.

Those whose lives and careers depend on horse racing in the state hope help comes quickly before the industry in Maryland is unable to recover.