Washington, D.C., April 10, 2009—The Maryland legislature is considering a bill to seize the Preakness Stakes, under the power of eminent domain. The bill would give the state ownership of Pimlico Race Track, where the race is run, as well as the trophy, name, and other properties associated with the Preakness.
The 1-3/16 mile-race, run the third Sunday in May, serves as the second race in the annual Triple Crown of Thoroughbred racing. Pimlico and the Preakness are owned by Ontario-based Magna Entertainment, which perhaps did not realize the facility was located in a third-world country where property can be seized at the drop of a bill.
The legislative maneuvers are an eerie replay of Maryland’s ill-fated attempt to seize its former football team, the Colts, in March 1984. That led to the team’s sudden departure to Indianapolis under cover of darkness.
“Like the Baltimore Colts, the Preakness ought to bolt,” said Competitive Enterprise Institute General Counsel Sam Kazman. “Unfortunately, while there may be no problem transporting the horses, physically moving the track might be a bigger problem.”
CEI Senior Fellow Eli Lehrer agreed. “I’d suggest that the owners of Pimlico dismantle the track piece-by-piece, load it onto some trucks, and take it to a state where the government actually respects private property,” he said. “The Preakness has brought a lot of publicity and money to Maryland over the years. It’s ironic that Maryland’s government is now planning to steal it.”