Legislation would make Bowie eligible for capital improvement funds

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Feb. 11, 2019

Legislation that would make the dormant Bowie Training Center eligible for funds from the Racetrack Facilities Renewal Account has been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly.

RFRA money, which is disbursed by the Maryland Racing Commission and requires a matching amount from a racetrack for capital improvement projects, comes from a 1% share of video lottery terminal revenue at five of state’s six casinos. In 2018 that cut resulted in more than $10 million.

Under current statute, 80% of the fund is dedicated to Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course on the Thoroughbred side, and 20% to Rosecroft Raceway and Casino Ocean Downs on the Standardbred side. A five-year allotment for the Maryland State Fair at Timonium expired at the end of 2016.

The Bowie Training Center, which is owned by the Maryland Jockey Club, closed in the spring of 2015. The Stronach Group, however, in 2018 and again this year said the facility will be needed in the future and will be rebuilt as a first-class training center. Bowie earlier received a one-time RFRA disbursement of $150,000 for property beautification and maintenance.

Companion bills in the House of Delegates and Senate alter the language to include Bowie and Timonium. Another set of bills in both houses deal only with Timonium and basically cap the fair at $350,000 a year based on its seven live racing days. A third House bill makes the Maryland Economic Development Corp., which has the authority to issue bonds for statewide projects, eligible for RFRA money.

RFRA was created as part of the initial law that authorized casino gambling in Maryland. The law also created the Purse Dedication Account, which currently earns 6% of VLT revenue at five casinos and 2.5% from a sixth; in 2018 the account accrued more than $63 million, 80% for Thoroughbred racing and 20% for harness racing.

(Bowie photo by Tom LaMarra)