O'Malley Tries to Save the Preakness

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Well, if slots are too little, too late to save horse racing in Maryland, maybe Gov. Martin O'Malley can do it himself.

He has proposed legislation that would give Maryland more authority to keep the Preakness Stakes in the state.

"The state of Maryland is taking the action necessary to ensure the Preakness Stakes remains a Maryland tradition and a source of pride for Marylanders," Attorney General Doug Gansler said.

With the Maryland horseracing industry struggling to keep up, there's concern that the Preakness -- the middle jewel of the Triple Crown -- could leave Pimlico Race Course and head out of state.

"We are introducing legislation today to protect Maryland's interests in the Preakness, and preserve the options available to the state to keep the rich tradition of the Preakness here in Maryland, where it belongs," O'Malley said.

The legislation would give the state the authority to buy or exercise eminent domain over Pimlico, as well as Laurel Park and the Bowie Race Course Training center. All three are operated by Canada-based Magna Entertainment Corp., which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month.

Magna subsidiary Laurel Racing Association had its bid to put 4,750 slot machines at Laurel Park rejected because it failed to include a $28.5 million fee. An attorney for Laurel Racing argued the fee was unconstitutional because there was no guarantee of a refund under the slots law that the state passed in the fall, after years of heated debate.

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Pimlico is the country's second oldest race track and a point of pride for the state. The state's horseracing industry, which began with the first running of the Preakness in 1873, generates more than 20,000 jobs.

Not only would losing its Triple Crown race be a shot to the state's ego, it could also have a big impact on the state's economy.

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