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Time to save Maryland racing

September 09, 2005

The corporation that owns Pimlico Race Course reported this week that it made $7.9 million on the day of the Preakness, the second leg of horse racing's Triple Crown.

Unfortunately, however, Magna Entertainment Corp. also reported that it lost $3.8 million during the rest of the year. And since making a profit is what corporations are supposed to do, Magna announced it would cut the number of racing days from 200 to 112.

Magna said it cannot compete against tracks in Delaware and West Virginia which have slot machines. In addition, slots for Pennsylvania horse tracks have been approved, which would put Maryland at an even greater disadvantage.

Though Gov. Robert Ehrlich campaigned on a pro-slots platform and legalization has the support of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, it's been held up by House Speaker Michael Busch.

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According to Miller, horse racing accounts for 20,000 jobs in Maryland, but that's not all it does.

A December 2002 state study of the industry found that there were 28,000 Thoroughbreds, the breed that dominates Maryland racing, and 5,800 Standardbreds, used for harness racing. About 38,000 people were involved in horse-related businesses.

As we noted in April 2004, if horse racing dies in Maryland, not only will jobs be lost, but land now devoted to breeding farms and crops is likely to become new housing developments.

More housing development in rural areas equals more congestion and more demand for state help with items like schools, roads and sewage treatment. There would also be an adverse effect on the quality of life in rural areas.

It's time for the people who make a living from horse racing to speak up and push Speaker Busch to accept a measure that will save jobs for them and open space for the rest of us.

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