Tom Chuckas spent his first official day as the president and chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club in meetings, only to emerge yesterday to questions about his vision for the sport in Maryland.
"The focus is today, and today we don't have slots," said Chuckas, who is replacing Chris Dragone, who had held the president's position since November.
"We hope slots happen in November," he said of an impending statewide referendum to legalize slot-machine gambling. "But we have to ... find new and improved ways of doing business in a climate where surrounding states have more than we do."
Chuckas, 53, has been a special consultant to Magna chairman Frank Stronach since May 1. Before that he spent 11 years as CEO of Cloverleaf Entertainment, which operates Rosecroft Raceway in Oxon Hill.
Chuckas said he hopes to find ways to improve Pimlico Race Course and bring younger people back to the races.
Scott Borgemenke, Magna Entertainment Corp's executive vice president of racing, complimented Dragone but added that different times call for different people.
"We're looking at a referendum and a different set of circumstances," Borgemenke said.
As a Rosecroft executive, Chuckas helped create a revenue-sharing agreement with the MJC in the late 1990s that kept the harness track operating, and he had a major role in negotiating the 15-year cross-breed simulcasting deal in 2006.
"Tom brings a wealth of experience to the position," Borgemenke said. "He has solid relationships with the horsemen and knows all the major players in Annapolis."