Md. Lottery ads concern racing commission

Daily Record Business Writer
September 15, 2009 7:14 PM

Concerns raised by state horse racing officials Tuesday took on a new flavor as some worried events inside the state lines will hurt attendance this fall at Laurel Park.

The comments are a deviation from the industry’s overlying concern that gambling opportunities at race tracks in Delaware and Virginia are drawing attendance away from Maryland’s tracks. Most recently, parlay sports betting opened at Delaware tracks last week.

At a Maryland Racing Commission meeting held at Laurel, commission members expressed their disapproval of a campaign being run by the Maryland State Lottery that advertises Racetrax, a virtual reality horse racing game. They said they felt the ads, which encourage consumers to “experience the sights and sounds of the race track without the smells,” discourages attendance at the real race tracks.

“It’s outrageous to compete against ourselves — especially because we aren’t getting any cut out of this for purses,” commissioner John McDaniel said.

(The value of purses depends on the amount of wagering done at the tracks and through off-track betting.)

Reached by phone after the meeting, Maryland State Lottery Director Buddy Roogow said he’d be happy to discuss the campaign with the commission. The commission voted to send a letter of concern to Roogow asking him to testify at the board’s next meeting in October.

“I think any advertising is going to benefit all of us,” Roogow said. “It benefits the whole racing industry and reminds people that there is live racing in Maryland. I don’t think it’s detracting, it enhances.”

Roogow noted the campaign was launched to promote a new feature of the Racetrax game that gives players the opportunity to win more money via a multiplier. The ad campaign was launched Sept. 9 and will run through the end of next week.

Racetrax is one of the more successful lottery games, according to Roogow, and it generates about $2 million in sales each week.

The lottery and racing commission had the same disagreement a few years ago when the lottery first ran ads for Racetrax. Roogow said the new ad campaign is similar to the old on but with a new tag line.

“I understand their concerns,” he said. “But I do believe it brings attention to all of racing.”

Commissioners also called up Cricket Goodall, executive director of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, Tuesday to address their concerns that two prominent Maryland racing events are taking place on the same day.

The Jim McKay Maryland Million at Laurel Park, a race day featuring action between only state-bred or state-sired horses, and the Shawan Downs Legacy Chase, a steeplechase event in Baltimore County, are both scheduled to run on Sept. 26.

McDaniel noted that the schedule was potentially lessening corporate sponsorship at both events.

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