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The Baltimore Sun

Horse racing industry loses millions annually

Pimlico and Laurel race tracks lost more than $25 million in 2008-2009, newly released financial statements show. The revelation comes as Maryland lawmakers look for ways to prop up the flagging but storied horse racing industry.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said in an interview this morning that the state "should not be subsidizing racing."

"It should be able to stand on its own, or go by the wayside," the Southern Maryland Democrat said. Miller said discord among the industry players is to blame for some of the financial woes. "A lot of it, owners have brought on themselves because they can't agree to a proper and equitable solution."

The Sun's Hanah Cho writes that "the reports paint an even more dire picture than Jockey Club officials had described." She notes that the Jockey Club had previously asserted that Pimlico -- home of the Triple Crown's Preakness -- has been turning a profit. Financial disclosures for 2010 are due by the end of the month. 

A House of Delegates committee is scheduled to hold a hearing today on whether to extend a deal Gov. Martin O'Malley brokered late last year to preserve the number of live racing days in light of the Maryland Jockey Club's financial difficulties. The Jockey Club, owned by Canadian MI Developments and Penn National Gaming, operates the horse tracks.

The legislation being considered would allow the Jockey Club to use revenue generated by the state's fledgling slot-machine gambling program for operating expenses instead of track improvements. A Senate committee hearing on the proposal is scheduled for tomorrow.

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