12/14/2012 10:45 AM
By By Brian Witte Associated Press
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - An elusive long-term agreement has been reached for Maryland's struggling horse racing industry that includes 146 live racing days next year at the state's major tracks and avoids the annual uncertainty in recent years about racing dates, negotiators and Gov. Martin O'Malley announced Friday.
In 2010, live racing was on the verge of collapse before the O'Malley administration intervened to work out a short-term arrangement to keep it going. Since then, the industry had aimed for a long-term plan to bring stability to horse racing.
The parties say they will ask the Maryland Racing Commission to approve the 2013 schedule on Tuesday.
"The years of uncertainty and strife are over," said Alan Foreman, an attorney for the Maryland Thoroughbred's Horseman's Association.
The 10-year agreement for racing at Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park has been brokered between the Maryland Jockey Club, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, the Maryland Horse Breeders Association and the Maryland Racing Commission. Pimlico is home to the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown.
"We will now have long-term stability, year-round racing and stabling, an attractive purse structure, promise for the breeding industry and a strong foundation to restore Maryland racing to its pre-eminence in North American racing," said Stronach Group Chairman Frank Stronach, who owns Pimlico and Laurel.
The 146 days of live racing at Pimlico and Laurel is the same number as in 2010, 2011 and this year. The agreement also calls for Pimlico and Laurel to remain open for year-round racing, training and stabling for the balance of the contract. The Jockey Club will guarantee a minimum of 100 days a year for the balance of the agreement. There also are provisions for the horsemen to add additional racing days through a revenue-sharing program.
"We created a plan that benefits everyone and develops a sustainable model for the future," said Maryland Jockey Club President Tom Chuckas.
Pimlico and Laurel would maintain a minimum of 1,900 stalls, Chuckas said in a statement.
Chuckas also said the deal will allow the Jockey Club to invest in capital improvements at both facilities. The Jockey Club plans to submit a plan to the state's racing commission and the Maryland Department of Budget and management in February, Chuckas said.
"Today is a great day for Maryland's racing industry," O'Malley said in a statement. "When my office helped broker a deal in 2010 that would temporarily sustain the industry, I was confident that all the parties would continue to work hard to reach an agreement that would preserve Maryland's racing heritage and industry."
Maryland tracks have operated at a disadvantage in recent years because neighboring states like West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware have horse racing tracks with casino gambling.
Although initial gambling expansion plans in Maryland created the possibility of building a casino at Laurel Park, previous owner Magna Entertainment Corp. was going through bankruptcy proceedings at the time and failed to put up the $28.5 million application fee for slot machines. The Cordish Cos. ended up getting the license instead and built the state's largest casino next to a shopping mall roughly 10 miles from the track.