Spending Bill Signed By Governor Gives Pimlico A $400 Million Facelift

Written By Dan Holmes on May 13, 2024
Gov. West Moore signing legislation ensuring Pimlico Race Course's renovation.

The Preakness Stakes isn’t the only cause for celebration this week at the Pimlico Race Course.

The 149th running of the second leg of the Triple Crown kicks off this Saturday, May 18. The famed Baltimore racetrack will also undergo major renovations, securing its future viability.

Gov. Wes Moore signed a bill that will renovate the historic venue that hosts the second leg of horse racing’s famed Triple Crown. The track is the cornerstone of Maryland horse racing.

Horse racing is the longest-running sector of the Old Line State’s gambling industry. Lawmakers legalized Maryland sports betting in 2021. The state established a brick-and-mortar casino industry in 2008. On the other hand, online casinos in Maryland will have to wait until at least 2026.

Members of the Maryland General Assembly passed a bi-partisan spending bill this legislative session. Moore signed the bill into law late last week.

As a result, as much as $400 million has been authorized to update the track. Many in the horse racing industry believe the track needs a facelift.

Renovation Gives State Ownership Over Track

The bill also allows for the transfer of Pimlico to the authority of the state of Maryland. Currently, the Stronach Group controls the venue.

But, under the new law, Pimlico Race Course will fall under the auspices of a new nonprofit organization overseen by the state. That structure will ensure tax revenue to the state and the viability of the famed course for years to come, much to the delight of many in Maryland.

“Because of this bill, we have a path forward to continue running the Preakness in Maryland and renovate the historic Pimlico Race Course,” said Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones. “[The governor’s action] will create lasting economic benefits to the state and the Baltimore region.”

In 2026, the Preakness Stakes will be held at Laurel Park Race Track in Laurel, Maryland, while Pimlico is renovated. The plans call for the Triple Crown race to return to Pimlico in 2027. The first Preakness was run on May 27, 1873, when a horse named Survivor finished first. Pimlico opened in 1870, making it the second-oldest active race track, behind Saratoga Race Course in New York.

Changes Could Boost Attendance

Funding for the project will be serviced from state-issued bonds ranging from $375-400 million. The costs will also cover the new construction of a modern training facility on the Pimlico grounds.

This is the second time in the last five years that the Maryland legislature has attempted to pass a bill to fund upgrades to Pimlico. It failed to do so in 2020.

Partly because of the facility’s age and also a dip in 2020 caused by the pandemic, the Preakness Stakes has seen attendance plummet in recent years. In 2019, more than 180,000 attended the two days of the event. However, last year’s total was only 65,000.

According to the Maryland Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority, horse racing has a $2 billion annual impact on the state.

Photo by AP Photo / Brian Witte
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Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes writes about sports betting, sports media, casino and sports betting legislative matters for several of the Play sites, including PlayMaryland, PlayMichigan and PlayMassachusetts. He's the author of three books, and previously reported for Major League Baseball, as well as the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. He lives near Lake Michigan with his daughters.

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