Slots should help racing industry, but not OTBs


November 09, 2008|By LARRY YANOS

When he started the Cracked Claw Off-Track Betting Parlor and restaurant in 1994, proprietor John Poole was excited about the prospect of Maryland getting slot machines.

The chance to wager on thoroughbred and harness racing paired with slot machines would attract many gamblers to the Frederick County facility.

Back then, discussions were under way by Gov. Parris Glendening and lawmakers to place slots at the state racetracks as well as some designated off-track betting parlors in the Free State.

Finally Tuesday, Maryland voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment authorizing up to five video lottery licenses for the installation and operation of up to 15,000 video lottery terminals at five locations.


Poole, however, doesn't see them coming to the Cracked Claw in the foreseeable future.

"The state has said it would place the slot machines at five different locations throughout the state and Off-Track Betting Parlors weren't in the conversation," Poole said. "They're talking about as many as 5,000 machines at each location and, we certainly couldn't accomodate that many here. I would say 500 would be the maximum."

And to make the situation even more bleak, earlier this year the Frederick County Commissioners voted to ban slot machines in their jurisdiction.

"Even if the trickle-down effect would include OTB parlors, it would be quite some time for slot machines to come here," Poole said. "It would be many, many years."

The Cracked Claw continues to be the top OTB facility in the state of Maryland, but Poole knows things would be even better with the inclusion of the slot machines.

"Charles Town hurt us when they got slots and now the current economic situation has made things worse," Poole said. "Our business has dropped dramatically this year. People can't afford to wager on horses, they have to buy gas and groceries and take care of the day-to-day needs."

Poole wasn't surprised at the outcome of the referendum and says without slot machines, horse racing in Maryland was doomed.

"The politicians waited too long already," Poole said. "There are just too many financial problems in the state. The slot machine revenue will help."

Needless to say, the Maryland Jockey Club was happy with the passage of the amendment.

Laurel Park is a potential site for 4,750 machines to be located in Anne Arundel County. The Maryland Jockey Club will begin the process of applying for a license once the licensing process has been finalized.

Pony tales

· Live thoroughbred racing has returned to Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.

Racing will continue Tuesday through Saturday for the remainder of the year.

The track had been closed since Sept. 21, when work began on a project to put down a new racing surface. Local training resumed in late October.

David Cora is the leading jockey at Penn National and Stephanie Beattie tops the trainers' standings.

· Big Brown has entered retirement at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky.

He will stand for $65,000.

The 3-year-old colt counts the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes among his four Grade I wins this year.

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