Although the Maryland Racing Commission last week unanimously approved intertrack wagering, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) intends to sponsor emergency legislation that would substantiate the ruling and clarify the statute regarding telephone wagering.
But Miller said he does not want to endanger the progress of intertrack betting between Laurel and Pimlico race courses, which the racing commission accepted on a one-year experimental basis beginning March 4, 1988.
"I want to make certain it will pass," Miller told the Associated Press. "If I thought introduction of this legislation would jeopardize simulcasting, I would not ask the General Assembly to enact it."
In granting intertrack wagering, the racing commission voted to allow fans at Laurel to watch and wager on races simulcast from Pimlico, their bets tied in by telephone with those at the Baltimore track. (When Laurel is operating, its races would be simulcast to Pimlico.)
Attorney General J. Joseph Curran has determined that intertrack wagering falls under the existing statute cited by the racing commission before its vote last week. But one of Miller's staff members said certain aspects of the statute are unclear.
"The attorney general has said that language allows a broad assortment of betting to occur," said the staff member, who declined to be identified. "Frankly, some members thought this meant telephone account betting -- someone would establish an account at the race track, phone in bets and have the money drawn from his account if he lost and credited if he won. Some members thought the regulation was limited to that."
He said the legislation could clear the General Assembly and reach Gov. William Donald Schaefer's desk by early February.
Tom Manfuso, vice president of Laurel and Pimlico, said race track officials understand lawmakers' intention to more clearly define the telephone wagering statute. He added, "I just don't believe that there will be any problems now that the state understands the great need for simulcasting."
Race track officials estimated that 170 jobs and $250,000 in purses were lost when its intertrack wagering proposal -- considered an emergency regulation because of a restricted implementation period -- was defeated three months ago. It initially was approved, 8-7, by the Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee, then rescinded because Del. Terry Connelly (D-Baltimore County) was not present when he voted in favor of the measure.