Commission OKs deal to keep Preakness Stakes in Baltimore

Associated Press


The Maryland Racing Commission approved an agreement on Wednesday that will keep the Preakness Stakes, a state tradition and the second leg of racing’s Triple Crown, in Baltimore.

The commission voted 5-0 to support an agreement reached by horse racing representatives and Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration earlier in the day in Annapolis. It calls for 146 days of live racing at the state’s horse racing tracks.

The deal would redirect $3.5 million to $4 million in state slot machine revenue, using money now set aside for capital improvements at the tracks to defray operating costs. That portion of the deal would require lawmakers’ approval in budget legislation. Horsemen also would contribute $1.7 million.

Louis Ulman, the commission chairman, said the agreement brokered Wednesday morning cut out a variety of contingencies that could have led to a shortened racing calendar next year.

“It guarantees 146 days of racing, and preserves 10,000 jobs in the state of Maryland,” Ulman said after the vote.

Racing could resume on Jan. 1.

The president of the Maryland Jockey Club, which operates the tracks, said the consequences of not reaching an agreement weighed heavily on the parties involved.

Tom Chuckas, the jockey club president, described the deal as a bare-bones foundation that enables racing to resume in 2011, but he underscored that much more work needs to be done to keep the industry viable.

“The nice thing with this is the pressure is off right now, so we can actually sit down and try to work through different things, and I think we’re going to explore every option, top to bottom, on how to make this industry profitable, protect the jobs, protect the economic impact, and we’re going to work at everything,” Chuckas said.

Joseph Bryce, Gov. Martin O’Malley’s chief legislative officer, met for nearly an hour with industry representatives, track owners, horsemen and breeders to work out details in the governor’s office.

The meeting was held a day after the state’s racing commission voted to reject a live-racing proposal for 2011 from the owners of the state’s two main thoroughbred racing tracks — Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course.