WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO MARYLAND RACING?
Information That Has Been Given to the Public and a Bit of Reading in Between the Lines.
January 21, 2010. The Maryland Horse Council’s Quarterly Meeting.
Maryland Horse Council President, Steuart Pittman, presided over the meeting.
Many involved in Maryland racing attended, including:
breeder owner Christy Clagett, President and COO of the Maryland Jockey Club Tom Chuckas, Cricket Goodall of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, Racing Secretary George Ann Hale, agent/owner/breeder Don Litz, trainer Ann Merryman, sales agent Bill Reitler, Stan Salter of the MJC, stallion manager Jim Steele, community activist Dorothy Troutman, and trainer/ horsewoman Katie Voss.
Bidders on the Maryland tracks present were:
Joseph Weinberg, a partner with the Cordish Companies who is in charge of Gaming and Lodging.
Karen DeFrancis, representing the DeFrancis family.
No other bidders were present although Jeffrey Seder of Blow Horn was not notified until the day of the meeting. Blow Horn’s Press Release can be seen here:
Additionally, an interview with Jeffrey Seder will be available by three p.m. on January 25 online at the Bloodhorse.com. (Type “Five Questions” into their search bar to locate the article.
Update. See "Blood Horse" interview with Seder here: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/55011/five-questions-jeff-seder
Tom Chuckas was the first bidder to speak. He stated unequivocally that without slots, Maryland Racing will cease to exist as we know it. Backing his statement is the simple fact that the slots “operator" gets 33% of the revenue. Without this additional revenue, it will be extremely difficult for the owner of the Maryland tracks to make the necessary facility improvements to make a fine product and draw crowds.
Joeseph Weinberg, representing the Cordish Companies, spoke next and indicated that what Chuckas had said was inaccurate. Weinberg gave a good presentation on why the Cordish Companies’ slots facility at Arundel Mills would be good for Maryland Racing. This information can be found at this ink to the “Blood Horse: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/54866/five-questions-david-cordish
Having read it, I still feel “Slots at a mall make no sense at all, and remain unconvinced.
Weinberg’s strongest point – and some in the audience agreed with him – is that if the petition to stop slots at Arudel Mills Mall is successful we will lose slots altogether. This is a very frightening statement for those of us who struggled and fought for twelve years to get slots into the State of Maryland. Weinberg indicated that a successful petition and a 2010 vote to disallow slots at Arundel Mills Mall will wipe slots out of all of Arundel County and we would have to “start all over again.”
This is a very misleading statement as the State of Maryland passed a referendum and put into law that there will be slots and that there will be slots in Anne Arundel County. If the petition is successful, the new owner of the Maryland racetracks will have to apply for slots zoning at Laurel Racetrack. That is not a hard thing to do. It could be passed in only a few days, especially since Maryland wants slots, and know the racetrack is a location that will work.
Weinberg also indicated that there is a stop slots group around Laurel and slots zoning might never pass at the track location.
I remain unconvinced. A glance at Maryland political history shows it often doesn’t matter what the local citizens want, it is what the local politicians think will bring in the most money. The politicians paid no attention whatsoever to the local citizen activist “Stop Slots at Arundel Mills Mall.”
Karen De Francis spoke next. She wore her heart on her sleeve, was very passionate about Maryland Racing and agreed with Tom Chuckas that we need to have slots at the tracks, not at Arundel Mills. She brought a most telling list of statistics showing the permits and approvals already received by Laurel Racetrack for a slots site, and to make improvements to the existing site. They have already received about 22, and according to De Francis, Cordish has received none.
To read more about the De Francis family's plans please see: http://www.preakness.com/Save_Horse_Racing
Since Weinberg supplied no list of permits and or approvals already received, it seems unlikely that they do, in fact, have any. If this is the case, how long then, will it take the Mills to get up and running as a slots facility?
Weinberg made a rebuttal to Karen’s statements, and then Chuckas pointed out inaccuracies he felt were in Weinberg’s statements.
During a question and answer period one Maryland horseman asked Weinberg if Cordish would commit to a specified number of days of racing at Laurel. When Weinberg indicated that this was not the time, a member of the audience asked, “Why not?”
Weingberg said it would be “disingenuous to do so.”
Why wouldn’t it be candid or sincere for Weinberg to do so?
Here are a couple more questions that could instantly clear up wether or not the Cordish companies are supplying factual information
1. Who paid for the “independent” study showing Arundel Mills is the most lucrative location in Maryland, indeed in the entire country to have slots?
2. The Cordish Companies state in their press releases that fourteen million people a year go to the mall and this is one of the reasons the mall is a good location. Do the math, please. That is 39,325 people a day are already going to the mall. Does that seem a realistic count? Perhaps the Maryland State Highway Administration can confirm this . . .
Updated: I did receive a call back from Rich Zeller, in the access permit division of the Maryland State hgwy administration. He feels, but did not have the actual numbers, that 39,000 a day, broken down over the course of a shopping day, is not unreasonable.
It will be extremely interesting to see who has the winning bid on the Maryland tracks on February 10. This writer is rooting for either Jeffrey Seder or Karen De Francis. I do not believe any of the other contenders have a true interest in, or concern for, Maryland racing.
Respectfully submitted, Sasscer Hill
Your comments are very welcome on this blog site as they pertain to Maryland Racing