The horseracing industry in Maryland has been dealing with uncertainty regarding its future for some time now. While in many other states horseracing tracks have onsite slot machine gambling, the only track to have this facility in Maryland is the harness racing track of Ocean Downs. Horseracing in the United States has been hard hit by the country’s economic turmoil, and while casino gambling doesn’t make horseracing a more financially viable sport, it does help cover the costs of running racetracks.
Just two months ago it appeared that Maryland horseracing was facing a very bleak 2012 season, as Jockey Club owner Frank Stronach would only sanction forty days racing at the Pimlico Race Course, while Laurel Park would see no racing action at all. In an about-turn, Stronach has agreed to a full schedule of live racing for the coming year, with the proviso that the state, along with the horsemen using the tracks, must cover losses incurred. The 146-day racing schedule for 2012 will reportedly cost the state $6 million that had been earmarked to upgrade the racetracks, while the horsemen will be adding $4 million to honor their commitment.
This is seen as a very short-term solution in keeping horseracing on track in Maryland. Looking to the future, Maryland horsemen and the Jockey Club have agreed to work on a new business model for the horseracing industry, and representatives from both camps will meet fortnightly with members of the Racing Commission in order to discuss and agree upon plans to make Maryland’s tracks financially viable.
Horseracing is more than just seeing which equine athlete crosses the finish line first – it is a culture of long held traditions. Wagering options can appear complicated to newcomers and one of the plans being suggested is to market this exciting sport to the younger generation in a user-friendly way. Other strategies include night racing and synchronized schedules with other regional tracks. With the racing schedule for 2012 signed and sealed, the next twelve months are considered to be crucial as all players in the Maryland horseracing industry find a way to work together to keep the “Sport of Kings” going in this state.