04/11/2006 12:00AM

Maryland agreement over revenue sharing

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The Maryland Racing Commission on Tuesday approved an agreement between the state's racetracks and horsemen that dictates how revenue from alternative gaming and simulcasting are to be divided, according to state racing officials.

The 15-year agreement, which had been in negotiations for several months, officials said, takes the place of a deal that was terminated two years ago and served to split the Thoroughbred and harness racing industries in the state. Under the deal, the two breeds have agreed to work toward identical legislative goals, including the lifting of a restriction that prohibits the two breeds from racing at certain times of the day without approval from the other group.

The deal also stipulates that any revenue from alternative gaming in the state or from legislated subsidies to the racing industry will be divided 80-20 in favor of the Thoroughbred industry. The Thoroughbred industry and the harness industry have been lobbying separately for the past three years for slot machines, but legislators have balked at approving the devices.

Alan Foreman, the legal counsel for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said Tuesday that the length of the deal and its components signal that the two interests have put their differences behind them after two difficult years.

"There are no issues right now that will divide the Thoroughbred and harness industries in the state," Foreman said. "And there won't be for 15 years."

The deal will require the owners of Rosecroft Raceway, the state's harness track, to pay the Thoroughbred industry $5.9 million a year for the rights to conduct wagering on Thoroughbred simulcasts. The previous deal required each side to pay a 12 percent premium on any simulcast race from a track that did not race the same breed, which in 2005 resulted in Rosecroft paying approximately $7.6 million to the Thoroughbred industry, Foreman said.

For signals from Maryland tracks that are simulcast at Maryland locations, each side will be required to pay a 6 percent signal fee for the other breed's races, officials said.

Lou Raffetto, the chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club, which owns Pimlico Racecourse, Laurel Park, and Timonium, said that the agreement will likely lead the MJC to open additional simulcasting locations in the state. The MJC, which currently owns two offtrack betting parlors, was reluctant to open additional sites because of the lack of a deal, Raffetto said.