For well over ten years, the legislature in Maryland dithered over slots while the industry there went well aways down the tubes (not that Magna needed any help in that regard). However, it took less than a week for it to pass "emergency" legislation to retain its treasured Preakness - “a sporting event of historical and cultural importance to the State of Maryland.” [NYT] By exercising eminent domain powers over the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, the state would control the race no matter the fate of the Magna-owned tracks when they are auctioned off in July. I guess they could run the race at Rosecroft or at M&T Bank Stadium if they had to.
In 1984, the state attempted to seize the Baltimore Colts via eminent domain; but owner Robert Irsay got the jump and moved the team in the middle of the night. The courts later ruled that Colts had moved beyond Baltimore’s legal reach by the time the city had formally begun its seizure proceedings. Lawmakers are apparently determined to ensure that doesn't happen again, and to prevent Frank Stronach from overnighting the Woodlawn Vase to Canada.
However, the rush to pass the legislation, expected to be signed by Governor O'Malley on Tuesday, comes despite the fact that four potential buyers, including Orioles' owner Peter Angelos and the ubiquitous Halsey Minor, have expressed interest in continuing to operate the tracks. (Contrast that with the anemic bidding for Maryland slots licenses, as this blogger from the Baltimore Sun points out; and indeed, it's nice to read about people - dreamers perhaps - who still believe that this sport has a future....and who are willing to put their money behind it.)
Whatsmore, there's a question of whether a federal bankruptcy court would even recognize such a move by a state.
“It isn’t going to be as easy as they think,” said Alan Ackerman, a partner in Ackerman, Ackerman & Dynkowski, a law firm in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, that represents property owners in eminent domain cases. “States have a right to determine what constitutes public use, but the court would have to take a long look and ask whether this is really public use.” [Bloomberg]Accordingly, some critics are skeptical of the bill's effectiveness and the motives behind it.
House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell, R-Calvert and St. Mary’s, said he was not sure the O’Malley’s plan would keep the Preakness in place.And then there were some arguments against that were not quite as well-thought-out.
“It’s not well-thought-out,” he said. “In fact, I suggest to you that this bill is political cover because the horse racing industry is on the ropes.” [Daily Record]
"Let's not steal the Preakness," said Del. Michael D. Smigiel Sr., an Eastern Shore Republican. "Let's take it through a way that upholds capitalism." [Baltimore Sun]Well, I know of at least one Republican who thinks that eminent domain is capitalism.
- The next court hearing on the Magna bankruptcy is scheduled for April 20.
- Paraneck's trainer John Campo Jr (recovering from surgery), is also wondering why nobody at Center Brook farm called the deteriorating situation to anyone's attention.
"The farm has never called our organization at Aqueduct Racetrack saying the horses needed help....They never said the horses are in trouble, they never said the horses aren't getting cared for, they never said the horses were getting neglected, they never said the horses weren't getting fed." [Daily Racing Form]