ANNAPOLIS, OCT. 30 -- Maryland's two harness tracks owe the state about $300,000 in salary reimbursements, a racing official told the joint legislative subcommittee on horse racing today.
Ken Schertle, executive director of the Maryland Racing Commission, said that, since August, Rosecroft Raceway and Delmarva Downs have been behind in reimbursing the state for wages to such employees as race judges and state veterinarians. The tracks also owe vendors, but are current on tax obligations, Schertle said.
Meanwhile, First National Bank of Maryland, which holds the mortgages on Rosecroft and Delmarva, has given owner Mark Vogel until Dec. 15 to sell the tracks, sources said today.
The racing commission has been monitoring track finances since it learned that Vogel, the multimillionaire developer arrested last month on cocaine charges, used about $2 million in track assets for nonracing purposes.
A preliminary financial audit has been ruled confidential by the Attorney General's Office, but racing commissioner Allan Levey told lawmakers: "There was nothing in there that was much different than expected."
Racing commission members appeared at a public hearing to offer recommendations on a number of industry-related concerns. Topics included:
Off-track betting. Saying there is an overwhelming need for OTB, the commission endorsed the establishment of two satellite wagering facilities in the initial stage -- a thoroughbred outlet in southern Prince George's County and a standardbred outlet in the Baltimore area. The facilities, to be fashioned after the Sports Palaces of Laurel and Pimlico, would be managed -- but not necessarily owned -- by racetrack licensees.
Lasix. Commission members said Maryland is not in accord with other Middle Atlantic states on a uniform policy on the antibleeding medication. Points of disagreement include dosage as well as time and place of administration. The commission said Maryland's Lasix program has been proven effective; horses must receive the medication in the Lasix barn three or more hours before a race, with the dosage recorded by a state official. Maryland does not restrict the amount.
The commission also opposes the prohibition of Lasix in the Preakness Stakes, citing a lack of uniformity to other races and "inhumaneness" to horses.
Sale of racetracks. The commission wants legislation that would require a grace period before any track can be sold. Spurred by the sale of Freestate Raceway for nonracing purposes, the commission wants time to consider possible alternate racing sites in the event a similar scenario arises.