On March 16, 2011, The Baltimore Sun published an editorial arguing against the Race Track Renewal Fund legislation. The Sun also published an editorial by Steuart Pittman (Dodan Farm, Davidsonville and the president of the Maryland Horse Council) arguing in favor of the legislation. The title The Sun gave to Mr. Pittman’s editorial incorrectly identifies these funds as “subsidies.”

Original Article Published March 16, 2011

The Maryland racing industry is reaching out to the rest of the horse community in an effort to pass the Race Track Renewal Fund bill, which as been crossfiled as House Bill 1039 and Senate Bill 848. (Although there are technically two bills, because they are the same language, we will refer to them as one bill.) The Maryland Horse Council, which serves as the umbrella group for all horse organizations in Maryland, including racing and sport/pleasure groups issued a call to action:

LET MARYLAND HORSES RUN! Pass House Bill 1039 / Senate Bill 848

The Maryland Horse Council is calling on ALL horse people, no matter the breed or the sport, to show their support for racetrack renewal funding by attending the hearings this week. For more information, click here or to directly contact your representatives (to find out who they are and all of their contact information) click here and type in your address. When contacting your legislator in writing or via phone message, be sure to include the bill number (House Bill 1039 or Senate Bill 848).

This bill allows some of the racetrack renewal funds in the slots program to be allocated to track operating costs if, and only if, track owners submit business plans and financial statements that meet with the approval of our racing commission. In other words, the bill gives the horsemen, breeders, and racing commission a way to oversee track operations and influence important decisions. It uses no money that was not already allocated to racing.

Failure to pass the bill leaves us where we were in December: no live racing at Laurel, no Rosecroft, and potential loss of thousands of jobs, farms, and tax revenue to the state.

We have been warned that without an effective lobbying effort, these bills will not pass.

Maryland voters spoke loud and clear when they approved slots in 2008. They voted to support the jobs, the open space, and the legacy that are Maryland racing.

This bill DOES NOT change the amount of money going to racing from slots revenues, and it seeks NO money from taxpayers.

This bill DOES create a program with funds already earmarked for racing whereby track owners can choose to apply for operating subsidies.

By participating in this program, track owners will be required to open their books to the public, to have viable business plans approved, and to invest in marketing and maintenance of infrastructure.

Track owners in Maryland have made some bad decisions in recent years, but those track owners reside outside of Maryland. If you punish the track owners by voting against the racing bill, you close down the tracks, take away thousands of jobs, push track residents into homeless shelters, and take away the revenue that supports a large percentage of Maryland’s farms.

If you support the bill, you allow the Racing Commission, the Governor’s Office, the horsemen, and the breeders to hold track owners accountable at a time when Maryland racing is increasing purses and growing. Supporting the bill costs taxpayers nothing, but it gives Marylanders the tools that they need to move this industry forward.

For more information, visit the Maryland Horse Council.

(Full disclosure: The Equiery is a member and a sponsor of the Maryland Horse Council.)