Magna Entertainment Corp. and its bankruptcy attorneys criticized Gov. Martin O'Malley's bid Wednesday to assert eminent domain powers over the Preakness Stakes, saying passage of the legislation could lead to more litigation.
The governor and lawyers for the state said the proposed law is necessary to ensure that the Preakness does not go the way of the Baltimore Colts in the wake of Magana bankruptcy proceedings. Hearings on the emergency bill are scheduled for this morning.
Maryland officials meanwhile emphasized that the measure – which would authorize the state to acquire the Preakness, Pimlico Race Course, Laurel Park and the Bowie Race Course Training Center by eminent domain – is to be employed only if necessary.
The governor and other Democratic leaders repeatedly invoked the Colts' abrupt 1984 move to Indianapolis as a cautionary tale they are determined not to repeat with the second jewel of the Triple Crown. “It wouldn't be proper to presume there will be a private market solution to this," O'Malley said.
Under the bill, the state could seize the tracks as well as the Woodlawn Vase and Preakness-related trademarks, copyrights and contracts, if doing so prevents "the loss of the historically, culturally, and economically important" horse racing legacy.
Legal experts say the bankruptcy filing by the tracks' owner could prevent the state from exercising that power.
Also Wednesday, the state's highest court agreed to hear an appeal by Magna-owned Laurel Park in its suit over the disqualification of the track's slot-machine gambling license bid. Oral arguments are scheduled for June.