An oversized sculpture of Triple Crown winner Secretariat by artist Jocelyn Russell catches the attention of visitors on a tour of Pimlico.

Maryland must rein in spending on Pimlico Race Course | READER COMMENTARY

Originally published in the Baltimore Sun

With Maryland facing projected budget deficits in the billions, more billions in yet-unfunded “Blueprint for Maryland’s Future”-related mandates for education, massive cuts in transportation investment due to revenue shortfalls and huge subsidies promised to the Ravens and Orioles and now contemplated for an unpopular Harborplace reboot, it’s astounding that the Baltimore Sun Editorial Board wants taxpayers to throw $400 million at a failing industry (“The smart money is still on Pimlico,” Jan. 10).

It’s not just that we don’t have this money and there are far better uses for it if we did. It’s that a horse track is neither a viable economic development tool nor a desirable urban renewal strategy in a part of the city that desperately needs both. If gambling on the ponies generated spillover benefits for nearby residents, the Pimlico neighborhood would be stable and prosperous already. It’s not, and that’s partly because of, rather than in spite of, Old Hilltop’s presence.

In a nutshell, a racetrack doesn’t yield the jobs or the amenities that make an area flourish. Its big footprint creates what urbanist Jane Jacobs called “border vacuums” that depress property values and invite crime. Tracks are desolate most of the year and often under-utilized on days when activity is scheduled. Add that this sport is increasingly unpopular (in part because many see it as inhumane), and it’s clear that propping it up with tax dollars is a losing bet.

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