Last month, we celebrated Preakness in a shabby Pimlico Race Course with broken bathrooms, subpar food and a death trap on the condemned old grandstand. Large old TVs circa 1990 loomed in the new grandstand as a reminder of the last update. The peeling paint, missing ceiling tiles and overall years of wear and grime just seemed more apparent. And I'm sure The Stronach Group didn't mind that you noticed.
Laurel Park received the motherload of slots funding while Pimlico has crumbled. It seems in giving racing access to slots funds the state set no provisions for how or where the money is spent. No oversight. Or is there (“Stronach running circles around Baltimore,” June 19)?
The Racetrack Facility Renewal Account does have oversight as all reimbursement requests must be approved by the Maryland Racing Commission (MRC) — just as the commission must approve the number of racing days requested per year by the Maryland Jockey Club. MRC has the power of “yes” and they have the power of “no.”
In 2012, the racing commission said no to the requested racing days. If not for an agreement and the subsequent 10-year deal — also brokered with the assistance of MRC — Maryland racing would have screeched to a halt. However, in 2017, MRC said yes to giving Laurel 150 days of live racing and cutting Pimlico's meet from April to June to 12 days in May. They continue to approve a 12-day meet.
Maryland’s governor appoints the commissioners. They are an extension of the state. They are sworn in by oath and serve as an impartial body independent of the track owners. They regulate the racing industry, but they also administer funds from several programs.
The commission has the power, as representatives of the state, of saying yes and no. But it seems when it comes to Pimlico they always indirectly say no by saying yes to Laurel Park.
Maribeth Kalinich, Arnold