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Commission: Put slots at Laurel, Ocean Downs

The Baltimore Sun

COLONIAL BEACH, Va. -- The Maryland Racing Commission yesterday urged the state to place slots at Laurel Park and Ocean Downs, the only two tracks eligible under legislation approved during a special General Assembly session last year.

Allowing slots would increase foot traffic and boost the tracks' handle, the commission said in endorsing a two-page statement during its monthly meeting.

Voters will consider in November whether to amend Maryland's constitution to allow 15,000 slot machines at five sites - one each in Baltimore City and in Allegany, Anne Arundel, Cecil and Worcester counties.

The racetracks aren't named in the legislation. A state commission will consider bids for specific sites for the machines if the referendum passes. Under the legislation, Pimlico is not eligible.

"The Maryland Racing Commission strongly encourages and supports the placement of Video Lottery Terminals at the two existing racetrack facilities which otherwise qualify --- Laurel Park and Ocean Downs," the commission statement said.

Proponents say combining tracks with slots would allow Maryland to better compete with states that already have the machines.

"Of the five locations for [slots] operation licenses in the state, the two locations providing the opportunity for [slots] and live horse racing to be juxtaposed, and to symbiotically co-exist, should be granted" licenses, the commission said.

The commission met at Riverboat on the Potomac, an off-track betting facility straddling the Maryland-Virginia state line.

It granted a motion allowing the site, which had to be rebuilt after Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003, to increase its admission on Triple Crown race days from $3 to $5. The facility's parking lot is in Virginia, but the building extends on stilts into Maryland's Potomac River property.

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