Legislative session ends on positive note for Maryland horsemen

The Maryland Senate and House of Delegates April 12 both passed broad legislation authorizing implementation of sports betting as approved last November in a statewide constitutional referendum. Most horse racing facilities and off-track betting outlets are eligible for licenses.

The General Assembly also passed a video lottery terminal bill that will generate substantially more revenue for the Purse Dedication Account.

The Senate had amended the House bill (HB 940), which resulted in a compromise hammered out just days before the General Assembly ended its 2021 session April 12. The final vote in the Senate was 47-0, while the House voted 122-16. The measure, which has emergency status to facilitate the awarding of licenses, now goes to Gov. Larry Hogan for his signature.

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Laurel to add racing days to make up for cancellations

The Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and Maryland Jockey Club have agreed to add racing days over the next several months to make up for multiple cancellations in the winter and early spring because of weather conditions and equine herpesvirus (EHV-1) restrictions.

The MJC earlier announced that the Spring Stakes Spectacular program originally scheduled for April 17 at Laurel Park has been moved to the following Saturday, April 24. Extra races listed for Thursday, April 15, will move to Saturday, April 17, and racing will not held April 15. The program slated for Friday, April 16, has been moved to Monday, April 19. So racing will be held April 17-19 instead of April 15-18.

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MD casinos have banner month; $6.5M for Purse Dedication Account

Maryland’s six casinos posted a single-month revenue record of $169.1 million in March, up 3.6% from the previous record of $163.2 million in March 2019, according to statistics released April 5 by Maryland Lottery and Gaming.

Total revenue from video lottery terminals for March 2021 was $112.7 million. Of that amount, 6% at five casinos and 2.5% at the sixth goes to the Purse Dedication Account. The PDA earned $6.5 million, up 32.6% from $4.9 million in February 2021 and up 6.5% from $6.1 million in March 2019.

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Maryland and Virginia to conduct 2021 MATCH Series

The highly popular Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships (MATCH) Series, which was forced to go on hiatus in 2020 because of regional COVID-19 restrictions, will return this year under a two-state schedule put together by horsemen and racetracks in Maryland and Virginia to bridge the gap until the full Series is restored in 2022, it was announced today.

The Series, the only one of its kind in racing, will run from May 14 at Pimlico Race Course through Dec. 26 at Laurel Park, and will feature 24 stakes—20 of them in Maryland and four at Colonial Downs in Virginia—valued at $2,750,000 million. There will be four divisions, all of them on dirt, and $282,000 in bonus money. 

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Laurel Park Moves Seven Stakes from April 17 to April 24

Because Laurel Park will remain under an equine herpes virus quarantine until Sunday, April 18, the seven stakes that were scheduled for Saturday, April 17 have been moved to Saturday, April 24. Nominations for the stakes will still close April 3.

Live racing is schediuled to resume at Laurel Thursday, April 8, with only horses stabled at Laurel allowed to race. The Pimlico Race Course quarantine is set to conclude April 12.

Horses not currently stabled at Laurel will not be able to enter until Sunday, April 18.

Backstretch Pension Signups Going Virtual Again in 2021

Virtual sign-ups for the Maryland Backstretch Pension Plan are again an option this year because of ongoing physical-distancing requirements issued by state government officials because of COVID-19.

Sign-ups will be available in April, and the deadline to sign up is June 1, 2021.

Horsemen employed in the care of horses on the backstretch at Laurel Park, Pimlico Race Course or the Fair Hill Training Center, including trainers, are eligible to participate. However, the eligible employee must have worked a minimum of 1,000 hours during 2020 and provide documentation to that effect (with a W-2 or 1099 form, or tax return).

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