Baltimore Sun

Some suggest moving Ocean Downs

Some officials on the Eastern Shore would like to see the Ocean Downs harness track move about 40 miles south to Pocomoke City if the state were to legalize slot machines.

With many Ocean City business leaders opposed to slots at Ocean Downs, some see Pocomoke, in economically depressed southern Worcester County, as a possible alternative.

But track owner William J. Rickman Jr. says he would prefer to stay at Ocean Downs. Rickman, a Montgomery County businessman, said he has had one preliminary discussion about relocating to a 100-acre county-owned parcel in Pocomoke at the intersection of U.S. 13 and U.S. 113.

"Obviously, my preference would be to stay at Ocean Downs," said Rickman, who also owns a Delaware track with slots and is building a small track in Western Maryland's Allegany County where he'd like to have the machines.

Worcester County Commissioner Virgil Shockley said there is some support in the Pocomoke area for a track with slot machines, "but it's just a trial balloon at this stage. ... The position of the county commissioners has always been we're opposed to slots in Worcester unless people have a chance to vote on it in a referendum."

Rickman said the only reason he would entertain the idea of moving is Pocomoke's proximity to the border of Virginia's Eastern Shore, making it an hour or two-hour drive for 2.5 million people in the Hampton Roads area.

"I would consider it, but it would have to have support from the entire [Eastern Shore legislative] delegation and the administration," Rickman said. "It would have to be that kind of support from the governor's office on down."

Del. Bennett Bozman, a Democrat who lives about a half-mile from Ocean Downs, says that if Rickman isn't interested, an unnamed investor is looking at possible sites near Pocomoke. Bozman said he sees little chance Rickman will win approval for slots at Ocean Downs.