Pimlico Race Course Owner Reconsidering Closure of OTB Facility

Posted on: June 5, 2023, 12:32h. 

Last updated on: June 5, 2023, 12:40h.

The owners of Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore are reconsidering their recently announced plans to permanently close the storied thoroughbred horse racetrack’s off-track betting (OTB) facility.

Pimlico Race Course OTB off-track betting Maryland
Pimlico Race Course is seen in this March 26, 2020, file photograph. The ownership group of the track that’s home to the annual Preakness Stakes is considering closing the venue’s off-track betting facility that operates when live racing is not occurring at the track. (Image: AP)

Pimlico, the annual host of the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown, is owned by the Stronach Group. Operating as 1/ST in Maryland, the Ontario-based company acquired a controlling stake in Pimlico in 2002. The company additionally owns Laurel Park Race Course in Maryland.

Last week, 1/ST officials revealed the company’s plans to close Pimlico’s OTB by the end of the month. Stronach reps said the Pimlico OTB has struggled to generate the necessary betting action to warrant its ongoing operations.

The Pimlico OTB has trailed Laurel in terms of off-track wagering revenue every year since 2005. The Pimlico simulcasting facility took just $11.3 million in wagers last year. Laurel’s OTB generated handle totaled nearly $30 million despite being open 50 fewer days than Pimlico.

Closure Rethinking

The Baltimore Banner broke the news that 1/ST is reconsidering its decision to close the Pimlico OTB.

The development comes after OTB workers, horsemen, and the union that represents such employees raised concerns about the company’s decision to consolidate its OTBs to Laurel Park. 1/ST CEO Aidan Butler wrote in a memo to employees that the firm is now “reassessing” the OTB decision.

As we continue our assessment of the Pimlico OTB operations, we are committed to working closely with your union, elected officials, and governmental agencies,” Butler explained.

The days of a pari-mutuel bettor needing to visit a licensed horse racetrack or OTB to place a wager are long gone. Maryland allows for online racebooks, and racebooks are also available at five of the state’s six brick-and-mortar commercial casinos, with Rocky Gap Casino Resort being the exception.

Last Wednesday, 1/ST said the ongoing competition has warranted the ceasing of OTB operations at Pimlico.

“The Pimlico OTB has been a valuable part of our organization for many years, providing a convenient location for our customers to enjoy thoroughbred racing,” Rogers said before reconsidering. “Understandably, this news may come as a disappointment to many of you.”

Rogers went on to say that Pimlico OTB workers would be assisted “as we wind down operations at Pimlico.”

Preakness Lives On

Though the days of the OTB simulcasting facility at Pimlico might be numbered, 1/ST avoided losing the Preakness Stakes in 2020 after reaching a redevelopment deal with state lawmakers. The agreement will see the state issue up to $375 million in bonds to help 1/ST and Stronach renovate the racetrack complex.

Pimlico, which opened in 1870, is showing its age. The redevelopment is to include updating the venue and converting it into a multipurpose complex. The funding is to additionally include the augmentation of the surrounding neighborhood, which is currently a rather rundown area north of downtown Baltimore along Interstate 83.

The planned redevelopment stalled because of the pandemic and high inflation that has greatly pushed the budget past the initial $375 million investment forecast. Little progress has been made at Pimlico more than three years after Maryland lawmakers agreed to provide the $375 million in bonds to Stronach.