ANNAPOLIS – Casino opponents who want to help the horse industry are now looking to other programs to help keep it alive.
* A bill by Sen. Walter Baker, D-Cecil, directly allocating $15 million in lottery funds to the horse industry.
* A bill by Sen. Thomas Bromwell, D-Baltimore County, authorizing what would essentially be a one-time accounting move — taking money from the lottery’s shortfall fund should the lottery be healthier than the governor’s budget estimates.
* A bill by Sen. Barbara Hoffman, D-Baltimore, and Bromwell that would temporarily direct a tax paid by the tracks back into the racing purses.
Baker justifies targeting the lottery by citing precedent: Lottery proceeds built Oriole Park at Camden Yards and are building the nearby Ravens’ football stadium.
“Most people see horse racing as a sport,” Baker said. “The monies that football and baseball owners make go back to their home states, so why can’t I give the money to a sport that helps Maryland?”
But Buddy Roogow, director of the Maryland State Lottery Agency, said lottery funds actually go to the Maryland Stadium Authority, not the teams themselves. Beyond that, he observed, the lottery is strapped.
“We are legislatively required to raise $32 million a year for the football stadium,” Roogow said. “We are running a little bit behind, but we are going to try and adjust — it’s an ongoing commitment — we will raise the necessary funds.”
Bromwell’s proposal would indirectly use lottery funds, unlike Baker’s, which would require a direct transfer.
“I’ve come up with a temporary fix,” Bromwell said. “Right now the executive budget shows a $49 million dollar loss for the lottery. It’s probably closer to $31 to $33 million. That is $15 million right there that can indirectly come from the lottery.”
The Bromwell-Hoffman bill, meanwhile, would give the tracks a yearlong reprieve from the 0.5 percent sales tax on the parimutuel handle — the amount bet — adding about $5 million to the purses. During that year, Bromwell said, he wants a study of the horse industry’s problems and prospects.
“With better purses, better horses will be attracted to the tracks,” Bromwell said. “With better horses, more people will want to go to the track.”
According to a report done by the Department of Fiscal Services in 1995, the horse industry generated 16,846 jobs for Maryland citizens and $996 million in economic activity in 1994.
Baker said casinos, on the other hand, would be detrimental to Maryland.
“Gambling adversely affects the citizens of the state of the Maryland,” Baker said.
“The money that is used to gamble with is discretionary dollars that you might spend on a pair of shoes. If you don’t get them then the state doesn’t get the 5 percent sales tax from the shoes…. “It is the big bait and switch. Instead of new shoes you’d end up with a hole in your pocket.” -30-