Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Washington Post Is With Me On Horse Racing!

There's nothing I love better than posting a rant, and then seeing the Washington Post come along and agree with me. Last week, I opined that Maryland shouldn't be breaking its neck to try and save it's dying horse racing industry. And today, the Post agreed with me:

Maryland Ponies Up

The Preakness doesn't need saving.

HORSES HOLD a mysterious sway over Maryland lawmakers. It seems that Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and legislators will go to any length, no matter how ill-advised, to protect the state's fragile thoroughbred industry. How else to explain the mad scramble at the close of this year's General Assembly session to pass emergency legislation giving the state the power to seize Pimlico Race Course, home to the Preakness Stakes? Lawmakers approved a hastily crafted bill that is pointless and possibly unhelpful.

The bankruptcy of Magna Entertainment Corp., the company that owns the racetrack, sent spasms through the state. Legislators fretted that a company or developer would swoop in, purchase Pimlico and move the race to another state or, worse, raze the track. They were whipped into a frenzy, in part, by the state's inability to stop the Baltimore Colts from moving to Indianapolis 25 years ago. Yet there have been no credible threats to Pimlico. A developer would find it difficult to secure the necessary permits to demolish the track.

That didn't stop legislators from passing a bill that gave the state authority, through the use of eminent domain, to purchase or seize Pimlico, Laurel Park racetrack, a horse training center in Bowie and the Woodlawn Vase, the trophy awarded to the Preakness winner. The bill is a dubious use of eminent domain and probably will be ignored by the federal bankruptcy court that will direct the sale of Magna's assets.

Perversely, Marylanders should hope the legislation is ineffective. Otherwise taxpayers could get saddled with a money-losing racetrack the state can't afford.

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