Bill makes Bowie Training Center eligible for capital funds

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: March 23, 2017

Legislation that would make the Bowie Training Center eligible for funds from the Racetrack Facilities Renewal Account is making its way through the Maryland legislature and is scheduled for a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee March 29.

The bill, which was revised from an earlier version that would have allowed the state to purchase or condemn the property, was discussed during the March 23 meeting of the Maryland Racing Commission.

The Maryland Jockey Club, which owns the Bowie Training Center, has begun a maintenance plan for the property after local, county and state officials expressed concerns about its upkeep. The MJC agreed to enter into a memorandum of understanding, and also told lawmakers the facility could be used again for training should the need arise in the future.

“I think the issue (of condemnation) was resolved with the memorandum of understanding,” MRC Chairman Michael Algeo said.

The RFRA is funded by 1% of casino video lottery terminal revenue. Under the original law, Bowie wasn’t listed as a recipient.

The Thoroughbred industry receives 80% of RFRA money and the Standardbred industry 20%. Language in the legislation adds Bowie to Laurel Park, Pimlico Race Course and the Maryland State Fair at Timonium as eligible Thoroughbred facilities.

MJC President and General Manager Sal Sinatra told the MRC regular maintenance is underway at Bowie, and that in response to requests from local officials, the company will install attractive fencing along Race Track Road in Bowie. “We want it to look as nice as possible as well,” he said.

Language regarding condemnation of the property has been removed from the latest version of the bill. Instead, it would lower the minimum amount harness track owners must spend on capital improvements in order to receive matching funds from RFRA.

The minimums for Rosecroft Raceway and Casino at Ocean Downs would be $300,000. The change would allow the MJC, through its parent, The Stronach Group, to make some facility improvements it would like to make, particularly in the clubhouse area at Rosecroft, which offers live racing and year-round full-card simulcasts.

In other legislative news, a bill that would authorize the MRC to hire an equine medical director is off the table for now, and the racing and breeding industry continues to work with lawmakers and Gov. Larry Hogan on budgetary matters that could impact a small percentage of revenue it gets from the VLT Purse Dedication Account.

Sinatra also told the MRC his team met with officials at MGM National Harbor casino, located about three miles from Rosecroft, to map out space for an off-track betting area on the second floor. The MJC already operates OTB facilities at Horseshoe Casino Baltimore and Hollywood Casino in Perryville.

“They’ve been pretty much open arms,” Sinatra said of MGM. “They’ve been really helpful, and we’re anxious (to get the OTB operating). We’re talking about doing it sometime this summer.”

(Bowie Training Center photo by Tom LaMarra)