Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Magna Move Foreshadows End of Maryland Preakness

While the blowhards down in Annapolis are busy examining bigger and better ways to gouge Marylanders out of their hard earned dollars, a far more serious matter has reared its ugly pock-marked head.

Um, Mr. O’Malley, I realize this whole tax and spend thing has you and your cronies deliriously giddy with thoughts of government subsidies dancing in your heads, but could you please take a good hard look at this development? A devastating storm is brewing on the horizon.

I’m referring to Magna Entertainment Corporation’s recent announcement of its decision to acquire all outstanding shares of the Maryland Jockey Club. This business essentially controls the Maryland horse racing industry. Since the inception of its "plug in a leaky bucket" deal with the DeFrancis family, former Maryland Jockey Club majority owners, Magna reserved the option for complete control of the business. Now, when it is apparently most cash-strapped, it will exercise that option, a move most certain to heap even more red paper on the Canadian conglomerate.

Is anyone else scratching their heads thinking what's wrong with this picture?”

Marylanders have the shortest memories in history. Only two slight years ago the Annapolis pols were jumping up and down screaming, “Pass the slots bill or risk losing the Preakness!” Slots died in committee, Governor Ehrlich lost his bid for re-election, the Dems had a big group hug, then everyone went home for coffee and donuts. Now the O’Malley camp is rumbling about a special session to balance the state budget and the citizenry is grumbling over the hole in their pocketbooks.

People! Pay attention. You’ve lost focus. The timing of this Magna announcement is a very big deal. Can’t anyone else see the clouds of a perfect storm?

If Magna looks crazy on paper, I say the company is crazy like a fox. Call me crazy, but the coming and going of this announcement with very little fanfare leaves me baffled.

The Preakness takes place in Baltimore, Maryland each May after the Kentucky Derby and infuses the State with a boatload of cashMaryland racetracks have been and continue to hemorrhage money hands over fists. They cannot compete with racing purses offered by neighboring states who have long seen the wisdom of bringing slots to the masses. These gambling parlors are traditionally combined with existing betting tracks, allowing neighboring states to offer fatter racing purses. With the high moral ground continuing to oppose legalized gambling in Maryland, our horse racing industry, a once glorious way of life and source of revenue, is all but certain to die. With the death of the industry, so too will come the razing of our racetracks.

How soon we Marylanders forget a nefarious move perpetrated under cover of darkness resulting in the loss of our beloved football team, the Baltimore Colts. Once Magna obtains complete control over the Maryland Jockey Club, what’s to stop it from shutting down Pimlico and doing the same thing with our beloved Preakness?

The Preakness, people! Baltimore’s own little Mardi Gras. A tried and true traditional excuse to party. Weeklong events have been built around this baby. Make no mistake, as outright owner of the corporation controlling Pimlico racetrack, Magna could and likely will move the Second Jewel in the Triple Crown to another venue.

Unless those tax and spend animals down in Annapolis start quickly putting together these puzzle pieces and legislate a way to claim Preakness as the property of Maryland, I’d say all bets are off.

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