Maryland’s move on slots would expedite new Pimlico

Dec 24, 2002 6:36 AM

Officials of Magna Entertainment Corp. (MIEC) showed little interest in the prospect of having slot machines when it was in the process of negotiating for the purchase of Maryland’s two major racetracks ”” Pimlico and Laurel.

At the time, the company’s largest stockholder, Frank Stronach, focused primarily on racing and the complete demolition and rebuilding of Pimlico, home of the Preakness, second jewel in racing’s Triple Crown.

But, with the political landscape changing toward legislative approval of the state’s two thoroughbred racing facilities becoming "racinos," MIEC’s president and CEO Jim McAlpine has moved right in by suggesting the benefits such a move could make.

"For sure," McAlpine told members of the Maryland House Appropriations Committee last week, "Pimlico needs a total rebuild." However, revenues from slots would accelerate the company’s present timetable, he said. Stronach had suggested that such a project might take five years.

Given slots revenue, he said, the project might be completed in two years.

Joining him for the presentation was minority owner, Joe De Francis. Both were grilled about the recent announcement that De Francis and his sister, Karin, would each pocket 18% of the slots revenue, providing them, over a lengthy contract with an estimated $30 million.

DeFrancis downplayed his role saying his agreement provides that his share is determined only after the state takes its cut and the money designated for race purses is paid.

Since the slot agreement revelation, a number of Maryland lawmakers have indicated they would reconsider the percentage of slot profits they would permit the track operators.