Hopefully it’s not too late…

May 16, 2009 | Keith Melchior

Today is the running of the 134th Preakness Stakes.  How many of you actually know the history of the race?

Upwards of 75,000 people are expected to attend Old Hilltop today. It is nothing more than a social event. People go to party, drink, eat, socialize and plunk bets down on horses they never heard of prior to 2 weeks ago in Kentucky. Politicians love it because they get some face time on TV, both local and national. That’s all they seem to be doing about the horse racing industry these days.

Thoroughbred racing in Maryland has fallen off so much in the past 10 years that they only have live racing 4 days a week instead of the 6 they used to have a few years ago. There simply isn’t any money in the till to attract owners, trainers, and horses to the local race tracks. When Bob Ehrlich was Governor, he wanted legalized gambling via slot machines to help this dying business as well as helping fund education in Maryland. It’s been about 6 years since Ehrlich first pitched slots in Maryland and finally after long debates and legislation, Maryland will finally have slot machines.

Trouble is, the politicians and their committees are really being a royal pain in the butt over getting this done as quickly as possible. Too much debate, arguing, complaining and the foot dragging they are doing will probably put an end to horse racing in this state. Now that Delaware has legalized table games and sports betting, Maryland finds itself behind the 8-ball once again.  In my opinion , they wasted 6 years going back and forth about slots and how terrible it’d be to have people spending hours in a slots parlor gambling away their hard earned money, and the focus was on people who probably could least afford to lose money. Let me tell you, people will gamble if they want to. No one is twisting their arms.  I have friends who live in Vegas and the only time they ever go to a casino is if they get out of town visitors who want to go. Most times they simply ignore the fact there are casinos withing 5 minutes of their home.

The old fossils we have in state government are not looking out for the best interests of the State of Maryland. They boohoo about the demise of thoroughbred racing, yet no one will step forward to do anything about it. There is too much finger pointing and too much spreading of blame.

If Maryland loses the Preakness, it will be a shame and the politicians will blame everyone but themselves. If only 1% of the 75,000 people at Pimlico today return to the track 2 or 3 times a week, will it be enough to help horse racing here in Maryland?  That’s 2250 a week and figuring each may bet an average of $50 per day (low end),  that could help, couldn’t it?

It’s time for the local politicians to stop dragging their feet and start promoting one of its treasures. Hopefully, it’s not too late.