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O'Malley, Legislative Leaders Tout Preakness Purchase Bill

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and both presiding officers of the General Assembly expressed support today for late-session legislation designed to help keep the Preakness Stakes in Maryland.

The bill would authorize the state to purchase or exercise eminent domain over Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore and all rights and racing events that are associated with the Preakness Stakes and its trophy, the Woodlawn Vase.

The state would have the same authority with two other facilities owned by Magna Entertainment, Laurel Park race track and the Bowie Race Course Training center. The bill authorizes the Maryland Economic Development Corporation to issue bonds for these purchases.

The issue emerged after Magna decision to seek bankruptcy protection last month and sell many of its assets through bankruptcy court. The Preakness, the second jewel in horse racing's Triple Crown, is among Maryland's major sporting events.

O'Malley said that the tools in the bill are designed to give the state "maximum flexibility" to keep the Preakness in the state. "It's our hope that we might have to resort to these powers," he said.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) told reporters this "was a move I suggested two weeks ago. ... We're going to do everything in our power ... to guarantee we have a purchaser. It might be the state of Maryland. It might be someone else."

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) scheduled an afternoon news conference to talk about his support for the bill.

A hearing on the legislation is scheduled tomorrow morning, four days in advance of the legislature's scheduled adjournment.


By John Wagner  |  April 8, 2009; 1:29 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly , John Wagner  
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The question is, why is OMalley and company spending so much time and effort to save the Preakness and Pimlico when all your experts say it's illegal? Federal bankruptacy courts trump anything the state could do, so why go through the charade?

Posted by: VikingRider | April 8, 2009 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Horseracing is dying and has been dying for a long time in Maryland but like GM going bankrupt, I guess, we're going to figure out how to inflict the most pain of Marylanders as we watch it go through its death throws.

First there was the MD legislature bringing back slot machines, of which, 1/3 goes to horseracing (whether or not this is noted on the referendum). Now, we're going to exercise eminent domain, eminent domain! to keep the funeral going a little longer. What's to keep another state from creating the "Prockness" on the same date as the Preakness? Keep your damed racetracks and names, let them sink to nothing in your own state.

This is an insane waste of time, O'malley should be ashamed. It won't work, it will die sooner or later, the later taking much more MD money with it.

Posted by: jhtlag1 | April 9, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

As a disappointed DC United fan, I hope that this fast-tack bill receives as much scrutiny and debate as did the one for the soccer stadium. So far we have not heard the total amount of bonds that MD would have to sell, nor do we know the exposure to the taxpayers if a buyer is not found. Finally, we do not know the details of the legislature's plan to sell the Pimlico. All the financial questions were asked of DC United. They must also be asked of the MD executive and legislative branches.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | April 10, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

The bigger issue that should frighten all Maryland residents is the continued expansion of Maryland's use of eminent domain. How does the state justify use of eminet domain on a horse race?!? The bigger issue here is that this is one step away from Maryland seizing assets (not just property) of a private corporation when it suits them. This is just another step in a disturbing progression of Maryland's major abuse of power in this area.

Posted by: Gordon71 | April 13, 2009 10:11 PM | Report abuse

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