Representatives of the Maryland harness racing industry came to the state capitol today to ask members of the General Assembly to increase their racing days and cut their taxes, claiming that increased racing in Delaware and Pennsylvania is hurting their business.
Representatives of the state's three harness tracks, Rosecroft, Free State and Ocean Downs, told members of the House Ways and Means Committee they should grant each track an extra 30 days of racing annually. In addition, the horsemen are asking the state to cut the amount it takes from them in taxes, from 6 percent to less than 1 percent. That could mean an additional $5 million in revenue for the racing industry.
Gov. Harry Hughes' staff has told the racing interests the state is willing to give the tracks the extra days of racing, which would produce $2 million each year, but does not want to cut taxes. However, for the first two years the state is willing to let the tracks keep another $800,000 it normally would take.
It now will be up to the legislature, beginning with the Ways and Means Committee, to decide how much to give the racing interests, who have implied they will take their business to other states if Maryland does not make life more profitable for them.
The committee will vote on the package of racing bills in the next two weeks. Whatever it passes out is expected to be the subject of much controversy when it reaches the floor of the House.