Large swaths of the grand stands were empty this first weekend of live racing at Pimlico Race Course--a sign of Maryland's troubled racing industry. Near empty stands usually means fewer bets, and fewer bets means lower purses.
Visitors at the track are bemoaning the low turnout as they make small stakes bets. The track tried to bring in slot machines to attract more money, but the slots went to a mall instead, which was a big blow to the industry. Baltimore resident Jim Abbot says owners, trainers, and jockeys are going through a rough period.
"They're hurting," he says. "I'm surprised we're not down to one track. It's stupid that the casinos didn't come to the track."
But on the upside, the Baltimore racetrack is reportedly bringing in more sales this year for its signature race, Preakness, which is scheduled for the third weekend in May. Track officials are hoping to draw in a younger crowd with musical performances by Grammy-winning artist Maroon 5 and American Music Award's Best New Artist Wiz Khalifa. The event will also feature the return of Kegasus as Lord of Preakness, the half-man, half-horse mascot.
"We experienced one of the most successful InfieldFests in history last year and are certain that Kegasus brought the spirit of fun and energy tailored towards a younger demographic," said Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas in a release.