- Published: Wednesday, 18 March 2015 11:18
Is it time for a revival of the OTB, the off-track betting facilities that were popular 20 years ago?
The Maryland Jockey Club in partnership with the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and the Maryland Horse Breeders Association is betting on it.
Recently, they sent an application to the Maryland Racing Commission for an OTB site at the new Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, in hopes of receiving approval at the MRC’s April meeting.
The partnership will have 1,595 square feet near the bar and right next to the food court at the Horseshoe, and plans to have the OTB open in time for The Preakness.
“It’s a good partnership among the three of us,” Maryland Jockey Club vice president and general manager Sal Sinatra said. “And it’s good for the casino, in that it is a game they don’t have and we will be doing our Preakness party and other promotional events there. With the Triple Crown coming, it’s a good time to get the OTB operating.”
OTBs, popular in the mid-1990s, have nearly disappeared as online betting and casinos in neighboring states, and now Maryland, undermined their popularity. These days there is just one, The Riverboat on the Potomac, which is technically in Maryland, but located in Colonial Beach, Va.
But MTHA president Tim Keefe said he is “very pleased” the MJC, under the leadership of Sinatra and Stronach Group chief operating officer Tim Ritvo “have taken the initiative to spearhead the project” in time for the Preakness.
”I think the location [makes a difference],” Keefe said. “It’s a venue that attracts [people] who like to gamble and it’s different from table games and slots. When people are there for an evening, maybe they want to take a break from one of those two forms of gambling and will want to try betting on the horses. Or maybe they have their wives and other friends with them and the wives and friends might want to try the horses.”
Once the MRC approves the document, the recent agreement between the partnership and the Horseshoe Casino will be good for a year. During that time, Sinatra and Keefe said the agreement will be evaluated to make sure “it is not cannibalizing” the attendance and betting at Pimlico Race Course.
If the OTB works, Sinatra said consideration will be given to creating more OTBs in different parts of the state.
“It’s a matter of convenience for our fans,” Sinatra said, adding he expects the results from these OTBs to be different from past models because of a different structure. “And it’s exciting. All we’re doing is trying to build the business.”
Instead of private operators managing the sites and getting a percentage of the net revenue, the MJC will manage them with its own personnel and the profits will be split equally. In the case of the Horseshoe, that means the casino, the MJC and the horsemen each get a third, with the MTHA and MHBA splitting their third 89%-11%.
“As Tim Ritvo says, we’re all partners in this,” Keefe said. “We’re all going to share in the profits.”