Proposed new clubhouse for Pimlico Race Course would be a multi-use facility. The project would be financed largely by gambling revenue collected by the state.
Proposed new clubhouse for Pimlico Race Course would be a multi-use facility. The project would be financed largely by gambling revenue collected by the state. (credit: Populous/credit: Populous)

Kudos to The Sun’s editorial staff for noting that the much-praised deal to save the Preakness for Baltimore is not a free lunch (“Gambling revenue rides to the rescue (again),” Oct. 7). The agreement is certainly a textbook illustration of the art of the possible, reconciling three parties with potentially divergent interests. And Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young deserves considerable credit for realizing how poisonous was his predecessor’s lawsuit threatening to seize the property via eminent domain — a tactic that contributed to the city’s loss of the Colts 35 years ago.

But The Sun is wise to point out that public dollars — no matter where they originate or how earmarked by previous political deals — have an opportunity cost. When many Maryland schools lack air conditioning or dependable heat, when the Kirwan Commission is looking for huge amounts to finance public education reform, and when the state faces a structural deficit estimated as high as $961 million, it’s worth asking whether allocating $375.5 million to racing is wise or affordable.

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Taxpayers and other interest groups, like teachers and others hoping to upgrade Maryland’s schools, were simply not at the table when this racing deal took shape. So it will be up to legislators and the governor to weigh its full costs and benefits relative to other uses of these dollars and then decide whether and how much to privilege racing. The coming session in Annapolis therefore promises to be one of the more consequential of recent years. We need to pay close attention.

Stephen J.K. Walters, Baltimore

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