Customers watch sports on a giant screen at the sports book of the Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. Panelists at a gambling conference in Atlantic City this summer predicted 90 percent of all U.S. sports betting will be done online or over smart phones within the next decade.
Customers watch sports on a giant screen at the sports book of the Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. Panelists at a gambling conference in Atlantic City this summer predicted 90 percent of all U.S. sports betting will be done online or over smart phones within the next decade. (Wayne Parry / AP)

The X factor in the plan to keep the Preakness in Baltimore is the impact of the 2018 Supreme Court decision allowing states to legalize all types of sports gambling including online gambling (“Maryland legislative leaders exploring fast-track plan to legalize sports betting without asking voters,” Jan. 17). It is a sea change in the commercial gambling industry, described by some as an existential threat to horse racing because of the potential loss of gambling revenue.

The deal with The Stronach Group shifts the financial risks of a decline in horse racing revenues from Stronach to the state (“Anne Arundel County executive announces town hall to discuss Laurel Park racetrack proposal,” Oct. 9). That is good for Stronach. Is it wise for the state? States, including Maryland’s neighbors, have moved rapidly to legalize sports gambling. The Maryland General Assembly is poised to consider a bill that would place legalization of sports gambling on the 2020 ballot. The threat to horse racing is real. With an aging fan base, it has been declining in popularity for decades.

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Will younger gamblers go to racetracks when they can stay home and place bets on football and basketball games and other sports online? Will sports wagering at casinos make it harder for racetracks to compete with casinos for gambling dollars? Already heavily subsidized by the state, horse racing would need even greater subsidies from the state just to survive the competition and that does not include the money needed to pay off the $348 million in bonds issued by the state to rebuild Pimlico and upgrade Laurel. Under the deal, the state will own Pimlico and be on the hook for repaying the bonds over 30 years. It will be the state, not Stronach, that bears the risk of Pimlico becoming an expensive white elephant if horse racing revenues drop significantly.

I am not saying the deal is a bad one because of that risk. I am saying that the risk bears more discussion than it has gotten so far.

David A. Plymyer, Catonsville

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