Hey Maryland, we need another sports handout.
In June 2015, there was the hope that American Pharoah by winning Thoroughbred Racing’s Triple Crown, would help revive the horse racing industry. It didn’t. Times have changed and it is no longer 1950 when baseball was the king of American sports with boxing and horse racing a distant second and third. Horse racing was an everyday event not just the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont. People could go to the track and bet legally. Horse racing had a big following but within a generation, horse racing became a secondary sport as states began lotteries and betting was made easy. Pimlico has been the home of 141 Preakness races but the 147-year-old Baltimore track is in bad shape and needs hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs to bring it up to 21st century state of the art standards. Pimlico has just 12 days of racing in 2017.
The state of Maryland is no novice in handing out sports facility subsidies as the Orioles ballpark and the Ravens football stadium have been getting state funding for decades from various revenue sources. At one time Pimlico was open for four months a year and that was scaled back to 28 days of racing in 2016. Attendance and revenues at racetracks didn’t suddenly rise because there was a Triple Crown winner in 2015. The Kentucky Derby still has pageantry, complete with stylish hats and bow ties and mint julips. It remains a sports happening but the Belmont racetrack future, where the third leg of the Triple Crown is held, is uncertain. State lotteries, off track betting and the availability of all forms of gambling in stores along with casinos sprouting up around the country have taken care of gamblers’ needs. The horse racing industry has been saved by casino gambling at many tracks. And that is not going to change anytime soon.
Pimlico racetrack needs massive improvements to remain open and that is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars.