Off Track Betting Could Be Coming Back To Frederick County

A bill to allow such facilities in the county is expected to be introduced to the Council next week


Frederick, Md (KM). Off track betting on horse races could be returning to Frederick County. Councilman Tony Chmelik says next week, he will introduced a bill to allow satellite simulcast betting facilities in areas zoned limited industrial.

But passing this legislation, he says, won’t automatically open up a off-track betting center in the county. “It’s not just as easy having one of these facilities. It does require some state input. It requires the Maryland Jockey Club to have input into it,”: he says

During Tuesday’s Council meeting, the President and General Manager of the Maryland Jockey Club, Sal Sinatra, told elected officials that these facilities can help the state’s racing industry to continue its recovery “Maryland horse racing, in its heyday, was a very big in our industry. And over time, the surrounding states  put in slot machines, and racing in our state really fell on hard times,” he said.

But in recent years, it started making a comeback, and Sinatra says a lot of that was due to the five satellite simulcast betting facilities in Maryland. “Since 2014, we’ve opened four of those five and it’s actually sparked growth in our industry,” he says.

The satellite facilities are located at Hollywood Casino at Perryville, Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, Riverboat on the Potomac, Pimlico Race Track when there are no live races, and the Maryland State Fair Grounds in Timonium. Sinatra  says there’s also one in Hampstead at  the Greenmount Station, and a small operation in Boonsboro  at  G.Boone Restaurant.

Frederick County used to have satellite simulcast betting at the Crack Claw in Urbana until it closed in 2011.

“The model today that we used is putting these satellite facilities into existing restaurants and bars and such,” says Sinatra. “Not to cannibalize each other, but more as an amenity to an existing business.”

Any revenue taken in from off-track betting is split between the Maryland Jockey Club, the owner of the local business and the horsemen. “Obviously, it’s better for the owners and breeders. They get more opportunities to run to their horses and earn money. And when there’s racing going on, people are more likely to breed and race in our state because there’s more opportunities,” he says.

Sinatra says last year, the satellite simulcast betting facilities took in $625-million. $40-million of that came from locations in Maryland, and more than $400-million came from out of state bettors.

Right now,Sinatra says, no site in Frederick County  has been identified as a possible location for a satellite simulcast betting facilities, but the Maryland Jockey Club is interested in opening up a local off-track facility.  .

Even if the Council passes this bill, the Maryland Jockey would need to identify a site and reach an agreement. No one can run satellite simulcast betting operation without a contract with the Maryland Jockey Club, according to state law. The Maryland Racing Commission would need hold a public hearing on that contract before giving its approval.


By Kevin McManus