State says no to off-track betting parlor

November 06, 1997

State says no to off-track betting parlor


Staff Writer

An application to open an off-track betting parlor near Hagerstown was rejected Wednesday by the Maryland Racing Commission - a decision made in the midst of a turf battle between the state's horse racing interests.

"I was very, very disappointed. The plan for Hagerstown was a first-class, quality plan," said Dennis Dowd, chief executive officer of Bally's Maryland Inc., which had applied to open the parlor.

But commission Chairman William Furey cited "no benefit to any part of the (horse racing) industry" in opening the facility. He also said the parlor would draw business from the existing Cracked Claw parlor in Urbana, Md.


"I can't see that this would enhance anybody but the owner of the facility," Furey said.

Bally's applied for a permit to renovate 18,500 square feet of the North Village Shopping Center on U.S. 11 last summer. Bally's also applied for the right to simulcast out-of-state thoroughbred and harness races at its Ocean Downs harness track near Ocean City, Md.

Those moves drew heavy criticism from the state's thoroughbred racing industry, which saw Bally's overture as a move into its territory.

Joe DeFrancis, president of the Maryland Jockey Club, which owns the state's two thoroughbred tracks, contended that his organization should control simulcasting of out-of-state thoroughbred races, and other tracks and betting parlors should have to pay the Jockey Club a percentage of profits if they want to broadcast out-of-state races.

At the commission meeting, the panel rejected Bally's out-of-state thoroughbred simulcasting application by a 7-2 vote, as some members cited concerns that the competition would not be in the best interest of racing in the state.

That decision likely doomed the Hagerstown application, which was rejected by a 6-3 vote, because it would have resulted in an OTB that only had harness races, said commission Director Kenneth A. Schertle.

Commission members expressed concern that patrons of the Hagerstown facility would not have the same betting parlor experience that exists elsewhere in the state, Schertle said.

Dowd said Bally's will now "rethink" the Hagerstown proposal. He said the company could pursue legal or legislative avenues, but he was not optimistic about the chances.

"For now, it's dead," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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