At this terrible time in the world and by extension the Thoroughbred industry, there finally is something to smile about. The Racing and Community Development Act of 2020, along with scores of other bills, was allowed to become law without Governor Hogan’s signature Thursday.
I always found the term “pocket veto,” to be oxymoronic because most often it results in positive step being taken. And that certainly is the case here. Maryland is rich in racing history and this measure ensures it will continue to be a racing force in the future.
Bi-partisanship is a beautiful thing, however long it takes to reappear. One of the best aspects is that the new bill is a win for the community at large, not just the local racing industry.
Under the auspices of the Maryland Stadium Authority, $375 million in bonds will be drawn from the Racetrack Facility Renewal Account, Purse Dedication Account, video lottery terminal payments to Baltimore City and the Maryland Lottery. The law goes into effect June 1.
The plan includes a new stable area, training facility and synthetic racing surface at Laurel and the ability to use the new Pimlico as a year-round event and community center facility.
The new law keeps the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico but awards the racetrack property to the city of Baltimore.
HRI is awaiting word on whether the synthetic track at Laurel replaces the dirt track or if it will be constructed in addition to the existing surface. Either way, Laurel Park will be a year-round racing facility , Pimlico dates notwithstanding.
The race came down to the wire as the bill passed both houses on the final day of a pandemic-shortened General Assembly session. Actual construction will take time, obviously, but the Maryland Stadium Authority is set to begin the necessary design work.
In addition, there will be a statewide referendum on sports betting on the ballot in November. That provision is not expected to attract push-back from the Governor’s office as he is loathe to increase spending or levy new taxes.
Funding for the Racing and Development Act is already dedicated to racing which includes the formation of a committee to govern equine health, welfare and safety issues as overseen by the Maryland Racing Commission.
In addition, consideration is being given to the construction of a equine medical and research facility at a revamped Laurel Park.