Representatives of Maryland's thoroughbred racing industry yesterday made their first united effort to get the state legislature to give them a bigger cut of the parimutuel takeout.
At what the industry spokesman billed as "strictly an educational seminar" at Laurel Race Course, a dozen legistlators or their representatives heard various segments of the industry paint a bleak financial picture of thoroughbred racing in the state.
Ground rules of the seminar called for "no attempt to be made to promote legislation." But the spokesmen made it clear they will ask the legislature next month to funnel back to the tracks and the horsemen a large chunk of the $21 million generated last year by the state's 5.34 percent share of every dollar bet at the state's four thoroughbred tracks.
John Schapiro, Laurel president said the money would be used for capital improvements at the tracks and for better purses and breeding award through Maryland Fund races. Inflation was blamed as the major reason for the industry's financial problems.
The first joint effort by segments of the thoroughbred industry that had gone their own ways in the past demonstrates "the unanimous feeling that the industry faces a crisis . . . We recognize these problems as real, but there just are not enough dollars to meet the needs," Schapiro said.
Arnolds Kirkpatrick of the American Horse Council, moderator of the seminar, said more than 20 racing states have recently "done something to recognize the bind the industry is in." New York state recently reduced the state takeout to 2 percent.
An unscheduled speaker, Ann Mahoney, newest member of the Maryland Thoroughbred Racing Board, said, when questions were sought from the audience, "You had listed the fans at the top of your chart (in a side presentation) but you moved away from that quickly . . . I'm here to represent the fans . . . let's get our houses in order, do a little house-cleaning, before we go to the legislature."
Later she suggested that Schapiro could spend less of Laurel's money on international travel to secure horses for the Track's Washington, D.C. International race and spend it on the $2 bettor at the track instead.
Mahoney's husband George runs the Maryland State Lottery, which she said "is so successful because it's run like a business. It's not filled with bureaucrates."
Mahoney also indicated that equal treatment for female employees on the backstretch, including housing, was part of the track's getting their house in order.
Female backstretch employees do not have dormitory facilities in the barn area, as men do. Schapiro said that the 400 available dorm spaces at Laurel are allocated by trainers and he added, "We are not in the motel business for providing a room for everybody on the race track.
Freshman delegate Tom Mooney of Hyattsville asked about reports of drug abuse on the track. He was reprimanded by De. Elmer F. Hagner Jr. of Annapolis, who said, "I'm a three-term delgate . . . Don't go witchhunting. Wait for the terstimony before the committee."
Later, Mooney said, "I'm a hellraiser. I think I offended some people . . . They (the racing industry) try to present one side of the issue. Of course, there's another side . . . It's just one of the many special-interest groups we encounter."