MESSAGE FROM MHBA PRESIDENT ON MD RACING DATES

In a unanimous decision the Maryland Racing Commission (MRC) rejected Penn National Gaming’s (PNG) bid to become a near 50% partner in the Maryland Jockey Club. PNG was denied because the MJC had failed to deliver a satisfactory business plan for racing for the 2011 calendar year. This is despite the fact that the potential partnership of MI Developments (MID) and PNG had been previously granted an extension of the date that the MRC had initially designated for presentation of the “plan”. Instead of a business plan the MJC had simply requested permission to race a total of 47 days through the spring meet at Pimlico. The decision to deny by the MRC was absolutely necessary to protect the future of racing in Maryland. PNG cannot be allowed to interject their business philosophy into the operation of the MJC and the business of racing in Maryland. PNG is in the business of gambling (games). Their connection to horse racing is only when and if it is necessary in order to participate in their primary business. Does anyone really believe their claim that they need more time to sit down with all parties involved and work out a plan for the future of Maryland racing? As current president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association I can assure you PNG has never reached out for discussions with our organization. They have had plenty of time.

It appears that MID and PNG must now come to some conclusion as to the fate of their partnership. Both of these corporations have the wherewithal to employ the very brightest legal and financial minds in the business world. It is beyond sensibility that they thought their business “plan” as presented yesterday would be accepted. It seems much more reasonable to assume the battle will be fought behind closed doors and a new plan will be forthcoming. We can only hope that PNG will no longer be a part of the process. At present the only entity fully licenced, and able to conduct live thoroughbred racing in Maryland is the MJC. If MJC is forthcoming with a satisfactory plan for racing both short term and thereafter, we, as the racing community should seriously consider endorsing such a plan. If eliminating Bowie as a training center will relieve some financial burden and provide significant operating funds if it sold, we should seriously consider supporting such a move. But, our support should not come without significant long term commitments from MID concerning the welfare of the horse racing community. These measures should be put in place giving the MRC significant punitive powers to enforce such commitments. For instance, if Bowie is eliminated, shouldn’t MID be required to provide additional barns and facilities for the displaced horsemen at Laurel and Pimlico? How about establishing an industry advisory council that would represent the interests of the horsemen, trainers and breeders as they are affected by racetrack policy. Let everyone have a place at the table.

If MJC is unable or unwilling to present a plan for racing in Maryland for 2011, in timely fashion, I believe we should adamantly oppose their continued involvement in our industry. If racing does not continue on a full time basis, the percentage of profits from slot machines designated for the horse industry will be in serious jeopardy during the forthcoming legislative session. If those funds are eliminated or even significantly diminished all of our efforts over the past few years will be for naught and our industry shall simply disappear.
— Tom Bowman DVM