Skip to Main Content

Minutes of Public Meeting - June 27, 2019

Commission Members Present:

Michael Algeo
David Hayden
Ernie Grecco
Thomas Bowman
Tammy Lafferty
Tom Winebrener
Clarissa Coughlin

Members Absent:

Konrad Wayson

Staff Present Representing the Maryland Racing Commission:

J. Michael Hopkins
Executive Director
Eric B. London
Assistant Attorney General

In accordance with the Notice of Public Meeting, as required by §3-302, General Provisions Article, Annotated Code of Maryland, the Maryland Racing Commission (“Commission”) met in open session on June 27, 2019 at 12:30 p.m. at Laurel Park in Laurel, Maryland. Chairman Mike Algeo welcomed the public and opened the meeting.

Minutes – May 23, 2019

The Commission waived a reading of the minutes of its May 23, 2019 meeting and voted unanimously to approve them.

Final Regulations – 09.10.01.23, 09.10.04.08 and 09.10.01.89.

J. Michael Hopkins, Executive Director of the Commission, informed the Commission of the three regulations. The first formalized a concussion protocol for jockeys who suffer head injuries. The second mandated that jockeys undergo a physical examination and provide a concussion assessment tool. The third formalized the roulette wager that was approved by the Commission last fall. Chairman Algeo requested separate motions on the three regulations, and the Commission voted unanimously to approve each.

Maryland Bred Race Fund Bonus

Mr. Hopkins reported that the bonus program currently has sufficient funding to operate through December 31, 2019. Commissioner Hayden noted that Maryland Bred horses are generating great excitement by winning at an unprecedented 36.7% clip this year. Mr. Hayden expressed his hope that in the future this number could reach as high as 50%. Chairmen Algeo requested a motion to approve the Maryland Bred Fund Bonus program, and the Commission voted unanimously to approve the program.

Maryland Bred Fund Committee Members

Mr. Hopkins reported that the Maryland Bred Fund Committee’s current Chairperson, David Hayden, agreed to serve another term. The other members recommended by the industry were Georgeanne Hale, Michael Harrison, David Wade and Bill Marlowe. Chairman Algeo requested a motion, and the Committee voted unanimously to approve the appointments.

Maryland Standardbred Race Fund Committee Members

Mr. Hopkins informed the Commission that the Maryland Standardbred Race Fund Committee’s current Chairperson, Tammy Lafferty, had agreed to serve another term. Lisa Watts was recommended as the licensee representative. Mr. Hopkins advised that Cloverleaf would be having a meeting in the next week and would advise as to their recommended representative. Chairman Algeo requested a motion, and the Commission voted unanimously to approve Ms. Lafferty and Ms. Watts to the Standardbred Race Fund Committee.

Maryland Jockey Club – Update

Representing the Maryland Jockey Club (“MJC”), Alan Rifken expressed the MJC’s commitment to racing in the state of Maryland and promised to reach out to members of the community in order to devise a plan to preserve and advance racing at Pimlico. Mr. Bill Cole, former President and CEO of the Baltimore Development Corporation, expressed his belief that Maryland could be the center of the horseracing industry in the United States, if all stakeholders can all work together. Alan Foreman, counsel to the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, expressed his organization’s willingness to come together on this very important issue. Chairman Algeo noted that there is currently a crisis in the industry, and that the future of Maryland racing depends on everyone working together.

Sal Sinatra of the MJC relayed his excitement about the state of the breeding industry in Maryland. He also reported that the Frederick OTB may open as soon as next month. Mr. Tim Ritvo of the MJC reported that the MJC was currently working on a new Capital Improvement Plan that will cover the rest of 2019 as well as 2020. The plan will include repairs to the water main and grandstand at Pimlico. While no final decisions have been made, Mr. Ritvo apologized for the water main incident at this year’s Preakness and expressed his hope that a solution to Pimlico could be reached. Additionally, he reported that the stick barn at Laurel is progressing and should be completed by the second quarter of 2020.

Chairman Algeo added that the 2019/2020 Capital Improvement Plan needs to address the issues at Pimlico, include solutions that will keep Pimlico in Triple Crown condition and the plan needed to go through 2021. The Chairman also noted that he had been advised that all the back stretch housing issues at Laurel had been addressed.

Commissioner Hayden noted that he had received a complaint regarding phone wagering for pick five Arabian races and that Mr. Sinatra indicated he would investigate the matter.

Audited Financial Statements 2018

Executive Director Hopkins presented the Commission with the results of the required 2018 financial statement audit, which showed positive cash flow at Rosecroft, with Timonium and Ocean Downs reporting losses. Mr. Hopkins also noted that the MJC had incurred operating losses, but that its parent corporation had agreed to fund those losses.

Public Comments

Bill Marlowe, representing the State Fair, acknowledged that the track at Timonium had sustained losses, but that the losses were largely a result of expenditures to the simulcast and restaurant facilities, and that Timonium remains on solid financial footing. Mr. Marlowe detailed the efforts at Timonium to introduce new potential fans to the sport of horse racing and expressed his excitement regarding the upcoming meet at Timonium in August. Commissioner Hayden congratulated Mr. Marlowe on the recent two-year-old sale at Timonium, in which a horse went for a record $1.8 million. Chairman Algeo also expressed his excitement about the upcoming meet.

Delegate Nick Mosby stressed the need to provide adequate facilities for workers at racetracks. Delegate Mosby also noted the importance of an inclusive Capital Improvement Plan that guarantees funding for Pimlico and that the Racetrack Facility Redevelopment Account funding process has monitoring to insure fairness. Additionally, Delegate Mosby noted the decrease in racing days at Pimlico and reminded the Commission of its role of insuring the future of Pimlico. Chairman Algeo also expressed his interest in an inclusive process, but noted that the Commission does not have unfettered authority and that the location of the Preakness falls within the purview of the legislature. Delegate Mosby concluded by noting that he would take the concerns noted at the meeting back to his colleagues in the legislature.

April Smith, of Friends of Pimlico, expressed her happiness at hearing that Pimlico will continue to host the Preakness. Ms. Smith also noted her distress at the number of racing days at Pimlico and her hope that a comprehensive spring meet be organized in the future. Finally, Ms. Smith expressed her belief that Pimlico should remain a racetrack and not be transitioned into a commercial development.

Next Commission Meeting

The next Commission Meeting will be held on July 25, 2019 at 12:30 p.m. at Laurel Park, Laurel Maryland 20725. Additionally, there will be a Commission Meeting at Ocean Downs on August 16, 2019.

J. Michael Hopkins
Executive Director