Legislation introduced to facilitate plan for Pimlico, training center

Monday, May 13, 2024

Legislation to facilitate the rebuild of Pimlico Race Course and construction of a new training center has been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly and assigned to the House Ways and Means and Appropriations committees.

House Bill 1524 was introduced March 3, according to its bill history on the MGA website. On March 14, rules were suspended for late introduction and later that day approved by the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee. Currently, there is no companion bill in the Senate; the deadline for bills to pass and cross from one chamber to the other is March 18.

The legislation is scheduled for a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday, March 19, during a session that begins at 1 p.m.

The Stronach Group (1/ST Racing), which owns the Maryland Jockey Club, announced March 14 it has finalized a “comprehensive agreement” that includes donating the Pimlico property to the state. Effective Jan. 1, 2025, a yet-to-be-formed non-profit entity under the Maryland Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority would take over operations of live racing in the state.

House Bill 1524 primarily makes changes in the framework language of the 2020 Racing and Community Development Act, which authorize the reconstruction of Pimlico and Laurel Park. The bill increases the amount of money to be raised by the issuance of bonds to $400 million from $375 million (including $250 million for Pimlico and $110 million for the new training center), and authorizes a joint plan among the MTROA and state Department of Housing and Community Development to invest in “workforce housing in and around” the Pimlico.

TSG would retain ownership of Laurel, which will serve as a transition facility until the new Pimlico is ready for racing. What happens to the Laurel property after that point remains to be seen.

The legislation states that on or before Jan. 1, 2025, TSG (MJC) must make Laurel available for use as a “transition facility” during the Pimlico and training center development projects; the MJC must transfer the right to conduct all Thoroughbred racing in the state to the MTROA or its designee “except that the MJC or an affiliate may conduct the Preakness Stakes, Black-Eyed Susan Stakes and related undercard races in 2025 at Pimlico and Laurel in 2026; and the MTROA and MJC must enter into a licensing agreement for intellectual property related to the Preakness and Black-Eyed Susan.

The legislation does not address the amount of the fees the MTROA will pay TSG for the intellectual property rights or use of the Laurel property for racing and training. It also does not address a specific training center location, though the MTROA had floated three candidates: the old Bowie Training Center, Shamrock Farm near Woodbine and the Mitchell Farm near Aberdeen.

House Bill 1524, however, mandates that TSG, owner of the Bowie site, convey ownership of the property to the city of Bowie no later than Dec. 31, 2025. That would appear to limit the selection to the other two locations.

The bill also contains a provision that waives the $1 million sports-betting license fee for the MTROA. The MJC did not apply for a sports betting license after the form of gambling was legalized in Maryland in November 2020.

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