I addressed the plight of Maryland horse racing in this A1 story for Wednesday’s paper. But even in that, it’s impossible to go into every detail about every piece of the story.
That’s what this blog is for, starting with this entry on why there are no slots at Laurel Park.
Laurel Park was the perfect place for a casino. Just like Philadelphia Park in Bensalem, Pa., it’s not a bad racetrack but also has some land around it for a slots parlor that would make Laurel the place to be.
Then, one blow: Maryland legislation – unlike Pennsylvania – didn’t designate Laurel or Pimlico Race Course as one of the definitive places for slots. When state voters in 2008 approved slots in five locations, Anne Arundel County was one, but not specifically Laurel Park.
“It allowed competing bids to come in,” said Alan Foreman, general counsel for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.
Cordish Cos. of Baltimore put in a bid for a casino at Arundel Mills. But Laurel Park could have won … except that the track’s owner, Magna Entertainment (now known as MI Developments), forgot to include a $28.5 million license fee with its bid.
Talk about a major mistake.
After spending years and millions of dollars pushing for slots, Magna blew its opportunity to reap the benefits of a casino at Laurel Park as the Maryland Jockey Club’s legal challenges fell on deaf ears. Voters approved zoning for a casino in Arundel Mills.
Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas has been at the forefront of this and also saw the horse racing industry dealt a huge blow with that mistake.
“From my perspective, of course it’s frustrating,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday. “The truth of the matter is, I don’t have the liberty to look back and say what could’ve been. My charge is to look forward.”
Looking forward, Cordish Cos. said recently it will not be able to begin operations of the Arundel Mills casino until 2012, costing the state roughly $70 million for education and money for horse racing as well.
Given the location of those slots, Laurel’s likelihood of also getting a casino is slim to none.
“I would not think there’s much of a chance that [slots happen] happens at Laurel,” Foreman said. “It would not make sense to put two casinos five miles apart. That’s ludicrous.”
If additional slot locations are approved, Foreman said the horse racing industry might want to consider another venue – possibly in Prince George’s County – to run while also benefitting from slots.
What’s considered more likely is the harness racing industry – a very small one compared to thoroughbreds in Maryland – could get a license at Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington.
The benefit to the thoroughbred racing industry would be negligible and leave it in the same state it is now.