Maryland’s horse racing regulators have ignored nation law at the same time as awarding almost $22 million in public subsidies for racetrack upgrades to the personal organization that owns Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park, an investigation through The Baltimore Sun has discovered. The Maryland Racing Commission had planned to launch Thursday an extra $four.Four million in subsidies to the Maryland Jockey Club for Laurel Park renovations although the panel has now not authorized a capital construction plan to manual such work at the two tracks and after questions from The Sun, the chairman of the volunteer 9-member panel removed the trendy compensation request from Thursday’s schedule.
A kingdom law in impact in 2013 requires the racing fee to approve one of these plans before dispensing any cash from the slots-funded Racetrack Facility Renewal Account. The commission has not achieved that, statistics display. The jockey membership submitted an initial capital development plan for 2013 to 2017 that promised: “good-sized investments within the rebuilding of Pimlico Race Course to function the proud home of the Preakness Stakes.” But the racing commission never voted at the plan, and the jockey club did no longer carry out that imaginative and prescient — instead of spending most of its kingdom grants at Laurel.
The commission acknowledges it has by no means approved a plan for 2018 and beyond. Nonetheless, the fee awarded the jockey club $15.6 million throughout its plan finishing in 2017, with ninety-one percentage going to the Laurel song. And last year, the price gave the song proprietor $6.7 million, with an extra than 3-quarters invested at Laurel, in line with the company’s annual reports.
While state law does now not dictate in which the jockey club ought to spend the subsidies, the statute makes clear that the song owner must put up a plan detailing how and when it’ll pay the nation’s money. And it states the fee must don’t forget and approve the plan before releasing any cash. “It seems on its face that the racing fee has completely failed in its duty to function as a regulator of the industry,” stated Sen. Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat. “You must have oversight.”
Ferguson stated he plans to invite Gov. Larry Hogan to audit the fee’s use of the Racetrack Facility Renewal Account. “All budget inside the RFRA account have to be frozen till there has been a clear accounting for each dollar spent out of the account,” Ferguson said. A spokesman for the racing fee stated the panel stands using its work. “The commission believes it has complied with all guidelines with one viable exception in 2018,” said Michael J. Harrison, spokesman for the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, which houses the commission. “The branch stands by using the fee which has constantly and brazenly accompanied the regulations.”
Officials from The Stronach Company, which owns the jockey club, did not respond to requests for comment for this article. The account for racetrack renovations became hooked up as state lawmakers approved and expanded slot machine playing in Maryland starting in 2007. A part of slots revenue has been funding the account because 2011; however, the cutting-edge compensation manner did now not kick in until 2015, country officers stated. The commission has no longer rejected any request for funding by the jockey club, considering that nation officials said.
The jockey membership submitted a capital plan for 2013 through 2017 known for a “main overhaul” at Pimlico, inclusive of six new barns with 216 stalls and “substantial consumer-targeted enhancements to the Clubhouse and Grandstand buildings.” At Laurel, the plan was devoted to constructing the latest stalls, a new gatehouse, and a new clubhouse. State officials say the plan qualified the jockey membership to acquire subsidies via 2017. But there is no report that the fee accredited the program, as required through national law. And the commission did not display renovations to ensure the employer turned into spending the money by its plan.