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 Maryland Pari-mutuel and Casino Gambling 

Maryland Casinos & Gambling

Among many other states, Maryland stands alone in the gambling world. There aren't any of the usual poker tournaments, slots, and video poker terminals that gamblers are used to seeing. Even pari-mutuel betting is against the law in Maryland and there is only one casino in the state. Instead, Maryland focuses on horses, which it has made into one of its major industries and form of gambling. It’s also the site of the Preakness Stakes, one of the biggest races in horse racing!

Unlike other states that base their gambling economies on Native American casinos, Maryland gambling consists almost exclusively of horse racing and lottery. All other forms of gambling are illegal. However, a number of bills regarding potential slot machines at racetracks have reached the Maryland Congress, so it is a possibility.

There aren’t even Indian casinos, as there are no federally recognized tribes that live within the state (the Piscataway and Accohannock tribes have applied for recognition, but the process takes several years). It is unknown if an accord can be reached, there may be an Indian casino in Maryland within the next ten years.

To demonstrate how stringent Maryland is regarding gambling, the Baltimore Junior Association of Commerce’s latest fund-raising event was stopped by police because it featured a Texas hold ‘em poker tournament. The permit was revoked, but the police were polite about it, even offering suggestions for other ways that the charity could raise money. (The BJA had run a poker tournament the previous year, but it was found that the permit had been signed in error.)

However, there is horse racing. There has been horseracing in Maryland even before Maryland was a state; there was racing in Maryland as early as 1721. Thoroughbred racing began in 1743 with the establishing of the Maryland Jockey Club in Annapolis. There are four thoroughbred tracks, and two harness racing tracks, with online betting available.

After the Civil War, the club built the Pimlico track in Baltimore, which is the second oldest horse racing track in the United States (after the Saratoga), and the home of the Preakness Stakes, the second jewel in Racing’s Triple Crown (the Kentucky Derby is the first jewel, and the Belmont Stakes are the third jewel).

The Preakness has been racing horses since October 23, 1873 (the first purse was only $1800, quite a change from today’s $1,000,000 purse). The track distance is 1-3/16 miles (established in 1925), and has never run on a Sunday (prior to 1932, it changed the day of the week it was on regularly, but that stopped in 1932 when it was established on Saturdays). It’s worth noting that the order of the Triple Crown was only established in 1931, and the Preakness happened before the Kentucky Derby eleven times, and at the same time twice.

Horse breeding and horse racing have a bigger impact on the state than all other sports combined, with 78% of the $1.1 billion dollars from all sports in the states coming from racing. The overall economic impact is estimated to be in excess of $1 billion annually, with half coming from horse breeding. The racing industry employs around 20,000 people. These figures also do not include the economic impact of the horse industry on tourism and the economic enhancement to real estate values, estimated at $100 million annually. Last year, horse racing in general brought in $15.9 billion in the United States.

There are nearly 150 thoroughbred stallions in the state, with breeding programs receiving nearly $6 million dollars in incentive programs for Maryland horses and modern training centers. Also, these figures do not include the pleasure horse industry, which employs tens of thousands of people, nor the economic impact of the horse industry on tourism, and economic enhancements to real estate values, estimated at $100 million annually. Horse farms occupy over 200,000 acres of Maryland farmland, acting as a buffer to development.

However, the face of racing in Maryland may be changing. The tracks may be changing into “racinos,” a racing track with slot machines, offering some of the amenities of full casinos. With racing falling into a slump, the state government has debated adding slots to the tracks (the governor, in fact, ran on a pro-slots platform), and several developers have approached the state government with plans for racinos.

Transportation in Maryland is served by a number of different services, ranging from light rail and buses to water taxis and trains. Visitors using their own cars are advised to bring change, as Maryland has seven toll facilities. Also, there a number of services available for disable visitors. In case of emergencies, the CB channel is 9, and those with cellular phones can call #77. Given Maryland’s size, most places are within a few hours travel.

Visiting Maryland, tourists have a number of choices for dining, ranging from the familiar pizza and fast food, to the more exotic in seafood and steamed crabs. Keep in mind that Maryland is a coastal state, so fish is usually fresh. There are also a number of locations that serve crowds, and catering is available. Just remember to make reservations, and your Maryland dining experience will be unforgettable!

A wide variety of lodgings are available, ranging from luxury inns to bed and breakfasts and hotels and motels. If you want to be there for the ‘Preakness’ in late May, make sure that reservations are made months in advance to ensure that you have a room waiting.

Maryland may look pretty, but beneath the pastoral surface lays an intensity that can be fun to experience when it’s been unleashed at the racetrack. The state takes its horses seriously, and the horses can run. Make sure that you’ve done your homework and you should do okay at the track. Study the horses, and you’ll do great!

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