Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued an emergency order Sunday to close all of the state’s racetracks, casinos and simulcast betting facilities to the general public in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. There were 31 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Sunday afternoon, according to the state’s Department of Health.
The order takes effect at midnight Monday and reinforces that should business not comply, they will be charged with a crime.
“This situation continues to evolve and will escalate rapidly and dramatically,” Hogan said in a news release. “These are unprecedented actions in an extraordinary situation, but they could be the difference in saving lives and keeping people safe.”
The racetracks affected by the order are Laurel Park, Pimlico Race Course, Timonium Race Course, Fair Hill Races, Rosecroft Raceway and Ocean Downs.
Laurel Park is in the midst of its spring meet, which is scheduled to run through May 3. After that, an abbreviated meet is scheduled for Pimlico, centered around the May 16 Preakness Stakes, before racing would return to Laurel later that month.
Maryland’s horsemen association relayed, through the Maryland Jockey Club that operates Laurel and Pimlico, that the status of live racing beyond Sunday was being “clarified” as of Sunday afternoon. A spokesman for the governor confirmed the order applies to a shutdown of racing.
Most tracks nationwide have opted to continue racing but to close the tracks to spectators. Turf Paradise in Arizona and Parx Racing in Pennsylvania voluntarily suspended racing, with Hogan’s order the first forced closure.
Training schedules at Maryland tracks are not expected to be affected.