The Baltimore Sun

The Racing Biz


Racing Commission Hearing Thursday February 11; Horse people encouraged to attend

Tonight, the Maryland State Fair Association and the Maryland Jockey Club attempt to make amends and build bridges with the residents surrounding the York Road fairgrounds after an unexpected community backlash its newly installed satellite simulcast facility (a.k.a. off-track betting facility or OTB) nestled on the second floor of the grandstands, will be adjacent to the current dining room. The dining room and satellite simulcast facility area will be completely renovated with the dining room operated by Hightopps Backstage Grill.

In January, MJC and the State Fair were all set to launch when an unexpected furor erupted, with local residents claiming they were blindsided and that MJC is attempting to quietly ramrod thru a gambling facility while the community was distracted by the blizzard. Local elected officials have railed that they were not notified. Residents insist that the law prohibits additional gambling facilities in Timonium, and at least one county councilman is considering a zoning bill to prohibit the OTB.

However, last week, the Maryland Attorney General’s office stated that simulcast or off-track betting “does not constitute an additional form or expansion of commercial gaming for which a referendum would be required” under the state Constitution.

Furthermore, according to the Baltimore Business Journal’s article on the opinion from the Attorney General’s office, the Maryland General Assembly approved simulcasting at the fairgrounds back in 1994. The assumption among local residents has apparently been that simulcast was limited to the ten days of the State Fair, during which there is live racing. But there are no restrictions on the number of days in the law.

That said, there is still one body that must approve the simulcast facility: the Maryland Racing Commission.

Originally scheduled for the Friday of Horse World Expo, the public hearing will now be held tomorrow, Thursday, February 11 at 6 p.m. in the Museum building at the race course. The Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Maryland Horse Breeders’ Association, Maryland Jockey Club and the Maryland State Fair are working together to build a support and raise awareness, and are encouraging horse people to attend the hearing.

Laurel Park to be dark after Winter Carnival

Laurel’s Winter Carnival runs from Feb. 13-15, with highlights being the $300,000 Barbara Fritchie Stakes-G2 and $250,000 General George-G3, plus the $75,000 John B. Campbell for 4-year-olds and up; $75,000 Maryland Racing Media for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up; $75,000 Miracle Wood Stakes for 3-year-olds; and $75,000 Wide Country for 3-year-old fillies, for total weekend stakes purses of $850,000.

The Winter Carnival includes ice carvings, giveaways, dining and drink specials, and entertainment Saturday through Monday.

Live racing will close after the carnival, resuming on March 11.