“Pimlico Plus” Bill Gets House Approval

Monday, May 13, 2024

Legislation that would authorize the rebuild of Pimlico Race Course, construction of a new training center and creation of a non-profit under the Maryland Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 104-34 on April 1.

House Bill 1524 easily passed the House Appropriations Committee and House Ways and Means Committee March 26 as did a list of primarily technical amendments. The bill was sent to the Senate Rules Committee and the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

The Senate was expected to take up the bill April 2. The regular General Assembly session ends April 8.

The bill as amended would facilitate the issuance of $400 million in bonds for the reconstruction of Pimlico and construction of new training center at a yet-to-be-named location. It also would authorize creation of the not-for-profit model that would take effect Jan. 1, 2025, under what is being dubbed the “Pimlico Plus” plan.

The MTROA, created last year by the General Assembly, already had announced that 1/ST Racing (The Stronach Group) agreed to transfer ownership of the Pimlico property to the state for $1. Attorney Greg Cross, who chairs the MTROA, told House Ways and Means Committee members all agreements with TSG are subject to due diligence.

Under the deal, TSG would license the Preakness Stakes and Black-Eyed Susan Stakes to the state. Cross at the hearing said TSG will receive $3 million in perpetuity plus 2% of pari-mutuel handle from the two most lucrative days of racing at Pimlico each year. There would be a 10-year license that would renew every five years.

TSG would operate the Preakness at Pimlico this year and in 2025, and at Laurel Park in 2026 to accommodate construction at Pimlico. The MTROA and its not-for-profit would assume control in 2027 at the new facility. Outside of those two days, the not-for-profit would be in charge of all racing operations at Laurel and Pimlico beginning in 2025.

Cross said TSG agreed to allow use of Laurel for racing and training “rent-free” for three years (2025-27). He told lawmakers a financial analysis that included information from the TSG indicates Laurel under the MTROA can operate in the black.

In recent years, under a 10-year live racing agreement that has been repeatedly extended, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and to a lesser extent the Maryland Horse Breeders Association have subsidized operations at Laurel and Pimlico. The 2024 figure is roughly $11 million.

A substantial part of the House hearing was devoted to questions from lawmakers about the benefits the plan would bring to the Park Heights neighborhood in Baltimore. It was noted the package includes $10 million for “workforce” housing in the Pimlico neighborhood as part of a joint community development project.

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