by Kimberly K. Egan, MHC President (first published in the May 2024 Equiery)

May is our annual Preakness issue and this year we have an extra helping of good news for Maryland’s Thoroughbred racing sector.
On April 8, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation to implement the Maryland Thoroughbred Racing Authority‘s (MTROA) “Pimlico Plus” plan. The General Assembly created MTROA in 2023 and tasked it with turning Maryland into “a best-in-class location for Thoroughbred horse racing.” The January 2024 Pimlico Plus plan is MTROA’s first step toward “reimagining Maryland’s horse-racing infrastructure . . . and establishing the most effective racing operating model to align the needs of patrons, horsemen, breeders, community residents and others.”

MTROA’s assignment was not easy, and we are delighted to report that the Authority and the General Assembly managed to balance the many interests with a stake in Maryland racing. The legislation not only charts a path for Maryland to be “a best in class” racing state, it also lifts the communities that surround and support Maryland’s racing facilities, and retains the capital projects funding for Rosecroft Raceway.

For those of you interested in the plan’s nitty gritty, the racing provisions include the following:
• current owner of Pimlico Race Course, The Stronach Group, will sell Pimlico to the State of Maryland for $1.
• The Preakness Stakes will stay in Maryland pursuant to a separate $3 million licensing agreement with The Stronach Group.
• MTROA will take over the day to day operations of running Thoroughbred racing in Maryland, which might include partnering with a non-profit organization established for that purpose.
• The State will authorize $400 million in bonds to demolish and re-build the Pimlico Race Course and to build a new Thoroughbred training facility at a location yet to be determined.
• The Preakness Stakes will move to Laurel while the Pimlico track is under construction.lico facility is completed.
• Laurel Park will then close and be sold, or developed, by Stronach in a manner of its choosing.

To minimize the burden on the tax payer, the Pimlico Plus plan requires that $5 million annually be transferred from the purse account – which pays race winners and jockeys – to the State Lottery Fund until the $400 million in bonds is paid off. The legislation also requires that the purse account reimburse the State for any operating losses it incurs by taking over racing.

The legislation also requires that any request for reimbursement from the bond funds be accompanied by a plan to finance racetrack workforce housing; community affordable housing, workforce development, and job training; blighted and vacant housing re-development; and community commercial revitalization, community safety, and community beautification.

Once racing’s operating losses (if any) are reimbursed, the legislation requires the State’s net income from racing to be distributed as follows:
• Up to $27 million a year into the Prince George’s County Blue Line Corridor Facility Fund;
• a $10 million grant fund to Park Heights Renaissance for work force housing;
• $3 million annually in local impact funds to Prince George’s County;
• $200,000 annually to Employ Prince George’s Inc. for workforce development and for small, minority, and women–owned business development; and
• a one-time payment of $6.2 million from the FY26 budget to Prince George’s County “for site development, demolition, and grading on and around the Bowie Race Course training center property and Rosecroft Raceway.”

As we have said many times in the last year, we at the Maryland Horse Council very much want Thoroughbred racing to survive and thrive. The Pimlico Plus legislation looks like a terrific step in that direction.

See you May 18 at the Preakness!