Tracks draw interest from 2 prominent Baltimoreans

Daily Record Business Writer
April 2, 2009 6:21 PM

With another Baltimorean showing interest in rescuing Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, keeping the Preakness Stakes from leaving the state may easier than solving the long-term problems of the Maryland racing industry.

“The state is going to have to come to grips with how to save racing in the state — we can’t just do it with keeping 40 racing days at Laurel and one race [Preakness] at Pimlico,” Alan Foreman, general counsel for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said Thursday.

A spokesman for Baltimore developer David S. Cordish said Thursday that Cordish plans to bid for Pimlico, Laurel, the Preakness and the Bowie Training Center, which Magna Entertainment Corp. has put up for sale. Magna, more than $553 million in debt when it declared bankruptcy on March 5, is accepting bids for its assets until July 8.

Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos also met with state officials last month to offer his help in ensuring the second jewel of racing’s Triple Crown stays here. A few days later, Heritage Racing LLC was incorporated — its main address is in the same building and floor as Angelos’ downtown law firm — and has also identified itself as an interested bidder in Magna’s bankruptcy proceedings.

Penn National Gaming, which recently bid for a license to build a slots parlor in Cecil County, and Churchill Downs Inc., which owns the Kentucky Derby and several other U.S. tracks, have also been identified as potential bidders.

The state has also filed as an interested party in the Magna case, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said Thursday the governor is following the situation.

“Everybody’s interested; they’re valuable pieces of property,” Miller said.

Cordish Cos. is also the sole bidder for a license to build a slots venue in Anne Arundel County after Magna’s bid for slots at Laurel was disqualified because the Ontario-based company did not pay the application fee. Cordish identified the Arundel Mills mall and entertainment complex for its site, and a spokesman said Thursday Cordish has “no interest whatsoever” in transferring its slots license — if awarded by the state — to Laurel if it acquired the racetrack.

The company, said Cordish Sub-Principal Joe Weinberg, believes that slots at Arundel Mills would generate more revenue than would slots at Laurel Park.

Weinberg added that the company envisions upgrading the tracks’ facilities to draw more race fans. Cordish would also like to transform land around Laurel and Pimlico into housing and shopping developments.

“Arundel Mills is 1.3 million square feet of retail entertainment and space and that would never be duplicated as far as Laurel is concerned,” he said. “We see development at Laurel as more residential and boutique retail.”

And he noted because the racing industry’s purse and racetrack funds get a combined 9.5 percent cut of the revenues no matter where slots are located, “it’s really in the horse industry’s benefit to have slots at Arundel Mills where they generate significant revenue for everybody.”

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