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STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The future of the Triple Crown is in question this week. Maryland’s Preakness Stakes is the second of the three of the country’s most famous thoroughbred horse races. A battle between track operators and horse owners means next year’s race may not get out of the gate.
From Baltimore, Marketplace’s Amy Scott reports.
Announcer: The 135th running of the Preakness. And they’re off!
Amy Scott: The Preakness brings tens of millions of dollars into the Maryland economy every year. But next year’s event is on hold because of a dispute over the racing schedule at the state’s two main thoroughbred tracks. The tracks’ owners say they can’t afford to host more than 47 days of live racing at Laurel Park and Pimlico next year.
This year they’ll host 146 days.
Lou Ulman is chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission. It nixed the shorter schedule.
Lou Ulman: We felt that that would be the death knell of the Maryland racing industry. We’ve got about 10,000 jobs statewide in this industry, and running 17 days of live racing at Laurel and 30 days at Pimlico would not be sufficient to keep all these people employed.
The tracks’ owners didn’t return calls.
Gaming analyst James Karmel says the companies are struggling to compete with tracks in neighboring states. They support horse racing with revenue from slot machines and video lottery terminals. Efforts to bring slots to Maryland’s Laurel Park have failed so far.
James Karmel: Actually operating a live racing schedule is a losing proposition. So the less they do of it, the better off they are financially.
Karmel says it’s too soon to worry about the fate of the Preakness. He says track owners could come back with another plan. Some have even suggested the state seize the tracks to save the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.
In Baltimore, I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.
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