Representatives of Maryland's racing industry urged lawmakers yesterday to approve legislation that would end any question about the legality of intertrack betting at the state's race tracks.
A 1984 law allows betting by telephone at Maryland race tracks. Under a bill introduced by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's), bettors at Laurel Race Course could place bets on races broadcast from Pimlico Race Course. If the bill is adopted as an emergency measure, as Miller hopes, intertrack betting could begin as early as March.
"I think we all agree it's important because of jobs and revenue," Miller told the Senate Finance Committee. Some officials have projected a $300,000 annual increase in state revenue if intertrack betting is approved.
In August the General Assembly's Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee approved intertrack betting as a state regulation -- not a law -- on an 8-to-7 vote. But Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. declared the vote invalid because one legislator cast his vote by telephone.
In an earlier opinion, Curran said intertrack betting is legal under the state's 1984 law. But Miller and racing industry officials, who say that opinion could be challenged in court, want this year's bill passed to remove any question about the procedure.
Maryland racing magnate Frank De Francis, majority owner of Maryland's two major thoroughbred tracks, has lobbied for the provision, as have groups representing jockeys and horse owners.
No one testified against the bill Wednesday, though lawmakers questioned whether assurances could be made to prevent tracks from broadcasting and accepting bets on any out-of-state race.