Since 1873, Baltimore, Maryland has played host to the Preakness Stakes. It’s one of the largest horse races in America, drawing in more than one hundred thousand spectators every year. This week, lawmakers in Maryland introduced a new bill to keep Preakness in Baltimore.
This comes after the state’s main track owners threatened to relocate this historic race. For obvious reasons, a huge number of individuals want to see the Preakness Stakes stay where it is. Today, we’re going to explain why the race may change locations, and what some lawmakers are doing to stop this from happening.
History of the Preakness Stakes
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of the Preakness Stakes. It’s one of horse racing’s Crown Jewels, and one of the most-watched races in the United States. As we already mentioned, the first race took place in 1873 and has taken place annually at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
Some of the most famous horses in history have raced in the Preakness. Incredibly, the record for fastest track time is still held by Secretariat, set all the way back in 1973. The winning prize for this race has increased dramatically since that time.
When the Preakness Stakes first began, the winner took home just $3,000. Today, the race winner is paid an incredible $1.65 million. This figure will continue to increase as time goes on.
The Preakness has been an important part of Baltimore’s history. It helps to draw in a huge number of tourists and generates millions of dollars in revenue for the city every year. In 2019, an agreement was made to permanently keep the Preakness at Pimlico. Unfortunately, a dispute between the state and Maryland’s track owner, The Stronarch Group, began to escalate.
Eventually, TSG threatened to move this race elsewhere. Lawmakers are now doing everything they can to ensure this doesn’t happen.
Lawmakers Present Bill to Keep Preakness in Baltimore
There are obvious reasons to keep the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Track. There’s a unique history here and moving the race elsewhere would take away from its magic. Several lawmakers recognize this, and recently presented a bill to keep Preakness in Baltimore.
This bill pledges $180 million funded by state bonds to help rebuild the historic race track. TSG has argued that Pimlico is no longer suitable for the Preakness Stakes. State officials argue that TSG underinvested in the track, causing the issue that we’re seeing now.
Lawmakers also claim that TSG can only legally change the race’s location “as a result of a disaster or emergency.” The money pledged by the state will go towards rebuilding Pimlico’s grandstand, clubhouse, and improving the track itself. Jack Young, current Mayor of Baltimore, commented on this new plan to the media this week.
“Today’s bill introduction is a critical step forward for Baltimore as it preserves the great tradition of Preakness at Pimlico and signals the commitment of significant investment in the Park Heights community,” he said.
Pimlico isn’t the only major track getting an upgrade. An additional $155 million will be put towards the improvement of Laurel Park Race Track.
Hope is that the bill to keep Preakness in Baltimore is approved quickly. Most agree that it’s the best course of action to preserve the history of the race while modernizing Maryland’s best tracks.
Maryland Continues to Push for Legal Sports Betting
Horse race wagering is hugely popular in Maryland. This form of gambling has taken place in this state for more than a century. Unfortunately, this is the only real form of “sports wagering” currently allowed here. This could change soon, though.
Since May of 2018, every state in the country has been given the green light to legalize traditional sports betting. Thus far, 21 states have officially approved sports gambling legislation. Many more are likely to do so over the next few months.
In early 2018, lawmakers in Maryland presented a bill to “study the implementation of sports gaming in the state.” The goal was to better understand how much revenue could be earned from this industry. Since that time, lawmakers have continued to look for ways to make sports wagering legal in the state.
As of now, no bill has been approved. Some feel 2020 is the year that Maryland finally approves sports betting. Several nearby states including New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania all now have legal sports betting markets. Most are profiting massively as a result.
The bill to keep Preakness in Baltimore may not be the only one making headlines this year. We’ll need to wait and see how long it takes for state officials to agree on sports betting legislation.
Stay tuned for more updates over the next few months!