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Maryland lawmakers approve plan to reform the state's racing industry

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A bill to radically reform Maryland's racing industry has passed both chambers of the state legislature. The House of Representatives voted 105-32 Monday night to approve a project that would, among other things, transfer ownership of the Pimlico racetrack from 1/ST Racing and Gaming to the state and establish a year-round training facility for Maryland's horsemen and women.

After the Maryland House of Delegates initially passed the bill unanimously, the bill was subsequently amended by the Senate. This amended bill was then sent back to the House of Representatives for a consent vote on Monday.

The bill now heads to Maryland Gov. Wes Moore for a final signature, although a veto appears unlikely.

“I have worked with governors in Maryland since the mid to late 1970s and most have been very supportive of the industry in some form. But Governor Moore was absolutely committed to this project. His support was critical to passage,” Alan Foreman, voting member of the nonprofit Maryland Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority (MTROA), said of the passage of HB 1524, also known as “Pimlico Plus.”

The MTROA is an industry-led nonprofit organization created by lawmakers last year to essentially oversee and support the Pimlico Plus plan. Pending the governor's approval, implementation of the plan will be a multi-year project beginning June 1, when the law takes effect.

Key provisions of the plan include the creation of a nonprofit organization to manage the day-to-day operations of Maryland's new industrial infrastructure. These duties are currently performed by the Maryland Jockey Club, which is owned and operated by 1/ST Racing. The MTROA will have ultimate oversight of this new venture.

“How [New York Racing Association] “The company to be incorporated in Maryland will report to the MTROA,” Foreman said.

Although much-needed renovations to Pimlico could begin later this year, Foreman said, the 2025 Preakness is expected to continue to be held at the Baltimore track, while the 2026 edition will temporarily be held at Laurel Park.

“After Preakness 2025, Pimlico will be fully constructed, and the plan is for Preakness 2027 to take place at Pimlico under the auspices of the new nonprofit organization,” Foreman said. “The riders will have races in Laurel for the next three years.”

Like Pimlico, Laurel is currently operated by 1/ST Racing under the Stronach Group (TSG) umbrella. The transfer of Pimlico from 1/ST Racing to the state costs a nominal one dollar.

The MTROA has already negotiated a licensing agreement with 1/ST Racing to operate and promote the GI Preakness S. and the GII Black-Eyed Susan S., Maryland's two signature races.

“It’s a 10-year contract with five-year extensions,” Foreman said. “If the state wanted to buy it out after 10 years, they could do it. But any extensions would be at five-year intervals.”

In addition to a revamped Pimlico, a year-round companion training facility will be selected to accommodate the horses not housed at Pimlico. About 1,300 horses are expected to be evenly distributed between the two facilities, Foreman said.

The MTROA identified eight potential training facilities for purchase and evaluated them based on several criteria, including location, size, acquisition costs and renovation costs. According to this rating system, two facilities are tied for the top spot: Shamrock Farm and Mitchell Farm Training Center.

Shamrock Farm Training Center is a 155 acre facility just over 20 miles from Pimlico. The Mitchell Farm Training Center is a 97-acre facility located near the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. The third rated facility is the Bowie Race Track, a 131-acre training facility.

The law also allows the Maryland Stadium Authority – a state-created entity to finance and implement major construction projects in Maryland – to issue $400 million in bonds to help finance the Pimlico Plus plan.

Ultimately, ownership of Laurel Park will be fully transferred to TSG for redevelopment in early 2028, “unless we need to renew the lease,” Foreman said.

Foreman said state taxpayers will not be burdened if the nonprofit created to handle day-to-day operations were to experience operating deficits in the future.

“If there is an operating loss upon acquisition by the nonprofit, Thoroughbred’s dedication account must cover the losses. It’s not going to come from taxpayer dollars,” Foreman said.

“I cannot emphasize enough this historic moment for racing in Maryland. It is historic for the city of Baltimore. This is great for the city of Baltimore. It ends decades of worries about Pimlico and the future of the Preakness in Maryland and Baltimore. It's great for the Park Heights community. And I think it’s great for the racing industry as a whole,” Foreman said.