The racing and gaming industries became closely linked in the early 1990s when state legislatures and in some cases voters approved casino-style gambling at racetracks. In Maryland, only one track has a casino but all six casinos generate revenue for purses.
It’s important to keep tabs on the numbers, because the revenue is the primary funding source for purses at the state’s two harness tracks. It’s also the basis for an almost year-round calendar for harness racing and a pretty good racing product considering regional competition for horses.
When the first casinos opened, the Purse Dedication Account for both breeds earned 7% of gross revenue from video lottery terminals; that dropped to 6%--with the exception of Rocky Gap, where it’s 2.5%—with the opening of MGM National Harbor Casino at the end of 2016. So 2017 was the first full year at 6%, but the overall revenue contribution increased.
By law, Thoroughbred purses receive 80% of the revenue and Standardbred purses 20%. In 2017, the Purse Dedication Account totaled $58.38 million, so harness racing collected $11.67 million, up from $10.21 million for all of 2016.
Figures released by the Maryland Lottery show that through the first nine months of 2018, the Purse Dedication Account had accumulated $47.99 million, which is 9.4% more than the $43.85 million in the account for the same period in 2017. So far this year, harness purses have earned $9.59 million and remain on track to exceed last year’s total.
Overall, VLTs at Maryland casinos generated $820.7 million in gross revenue from January through September this year. National Harbor and Live! Casino are the two largest VLT purse generators in the state.
The Wednesday, Oct. 17, program at Rosecroft is a tough one on paper. Here’s a look a few races, including the feature:
The evening kicks off with an interesting bottom-level condition pace that could be ripe for an upset. Rosebud Dr Evil dropped a condition to this level last week but didn’t get the best of trips; he committed to the outside heading to the three-quarter-mile mark but the flow stalled and the inside lane opened up for another horse. He might be worth a follow-up in a tough-to-figure race. Majestos won in this class last week but gets in on the per-start condition; has early speed to land a spot if he repeats his last effort and not the one on Oct.3.
A Blue Believer had a rough August—she was scratched on two occasions at Ocean Downs—but her last two outings here were solid enough, one from post 8 and the other from the pylons. She’s only 1-for-21 this year but she’s not alone in the win-percentage department. Of the six that exit the “non-winners of 2 pari-mutuel races lifetime” race won by B N Hopeful Oct. 10, Lima Illusion may have the most upside at a decent price. She has only started four times this year for the Offutt barn and really picked things up last week in competitive time for this crew.
This condition event for fillies and mares is basically last week’s open pace minus Nerida Franco N, who proved too strong unchallenged on the lead from post 9. Little Sandyloam left and secured the three-hole in the open last week and didn’t get a chance to shake loose until the top of the lane. Post 8 is not the best spot but this is her third start off a brief rest; pattern shows improvement. Hillbilly Jet, who could be favored here, may have paced the race of her career last week from well off the early action and was gaining on Nerida Franco N near the finish. She draws the same outside post but a repeat of that effort makes her the one to beat.