Executive order allows tracks to have limited number of patrons

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Sept. 28 issued an amended executive order that allows racetracks to reopen to patrons subject to applicable local orders, state Department of Health directives on COVID-19 mitigation, and capacity limitations.

The order, which is effective immediately, follows the reopening of casinos and off-track betting facilities in late June. Live racing commenced at Laurel Park May 30 after a more than two-month shutdown but the facility has remained closed to the public with the exception of racehorse owners.

The executive order lists Laurel, Pimlico Race Course, the Maryland State Fair at Timonium, Fair Hill Races, Rosecroft Raceway and Casino at Ocean Downs as eligible to open to the public.

“The total number of persons permitted in a gaming facility at any one time shall not exceed 50% of that gaming facility’s maximum occupancy,” the order states. The total number of spectators permitted in a racing facility at any one time shall not exceed the lesser of (a) 50% of that racing facility’s maximum occupancy or (b) 250 persons. As used herein, the term ‘spectator’ means a person at a racing facility who is not at the facility for the purpose of engaging in racing or other customary operations.”

Maximum occupancy is defined as the maximum occupancy load of a gaming or racing facility under the applicable fire code.

Pimlico, which is in the midst of a six-day meet, reopened for full-card simulcasts in June but suspended wagering during the current Preakness meet because of the previous executive order that banned spectators during live racing. Timonium’s seven racing dates were moved to Laurel, which allowed the fairgrounds to continue its simulcast operation uninterrupted.

Ocean Downs held its live harness meet from early July until mid-September; spectators were not permitted on the apron but those in the clubhouse simulcast area were able to watch and wager. Rosecroft began its live meet Sept. 23 without patrons or wagering.

After the Pimlico meet, live racing returns to Laurel Oct. 8. The Maryland Jockey Club’s plans in light of the latest executive order weren’t immediately known.

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