After the Preakness...

May 18, 2006

Saturday's running of the Preakness, the second leg of racing's Triple Crown, will bring national attention, tourists and lots of money to Baltimore, where the event will be held at Pimlico Race Course.

It's also a good chance to look at the benefits slot machines could bring to the state and what has been called "the sport of kings."

Last year, Gov. Robert Ehrlich told The Washington Post that Maryland might lose the Preakness if slots were not legalized.

The Post also reported that the more than 100,000 who attend the Preakness offset the track's losses for the rest of its season, which usually draws 5,000 or fewer fans per day.

At the start of the 2005 session, a group that included Magna Entertainment, which owns Pimlico and Laurel Park, the Maryland Horse Breeders Association and the Maryland State Fair and Agricultural Society made a report on horse racing to state lawmakers.


The group's officials told the Maryland General Assembly that breeding and horse racing in the state have a $1 billion impact annually on the state's economy.

In addition, its report said that horse breeding makes it profitable to preserve 200,000 acres of green space in the state.

Preserving green space means less urban sprawl, which means the taxpayers won't have to pay for as many new roads, schools and public safety employees such as police, firefighters and paramedics.

Just as important, Maryland's government still faces what is called a structural deficit, which means costs are scheduled to outpace revenues for years to come.

Slots at the state's horse tracks would be a source of those revenues and preserve the 20,000 jobs Aris Melissaratos, Maryland's secretary of Business and Economic Development, said in 2005 were racing related.

So, this Saturday if you watch the Preakness as those big, beautiful animals streak down the home stretch, think also about the consequences of not helping this sport survive in Maryland.

The Herald-Mail Articles