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Negotiations on racetrack aid for Laurel Park fizzle on final day of Maryland General Assembly

An effort to help Maryland's thoroughbred racetracks — including Northwest Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course — fizzled on the final day of the General Assembly session on Monday.

Lawmakers sent a bill back to a committee, a procedural move that marked the defeat of the measure.

The bill would have allowed The Stronach Group to use state bonds to accelerate improvements at its Laurel Park track and Bowie Training Center, so long as the company made progress on redeveloping Pimlico.

That measure gained traction in the Senate last week, but was opposed by Baltimore’s delegates in a unanimous vote Saturday.

“It's a good bill. They don't have the vision over in the House that we do,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller.

Miller called the failure of the legislation “a major disappointment” of the 90-day session. Miller said the Senate had forged a compromise that would have ensured investment at both Laurel Park and Pimlico.

The city government, as part of its efforts to help Pimlico and defeat a financing bill for Laurel, filed a lawsuit last month against The Stronach Group. The suit, which is pending in Baltimore City Circuit Court, seeks to block the legislation and any attempt to move the Preakness Stakes from Pimlico. It also asks a judge to award ownership of Pimlico and the Preakness to the city.

The Stronach Group said it was disappointed to leave the session without getting help toward its goal of developing Laurel into a “super track” and remaining at odds with city officials over Pimlico.

“The city has had over three years to propose a plan and funding source to redevelop Pimlico,” Bill Hecht, a Stronach executive, said in a statement.

“Instead, the city has derailed constructive efforts at the state level to provide a funding source intended for the betterment of the entire Maryland racing industry in favor of an ill-advised lawsuit attempting to improperly take over our business enterprise. As we’ve said before, the status quo isn’t viable, and a lawsuit isn’t a strategy.”

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