Vogel reaches agreement to buy Rosecroft

Daily Record Business Writer
July 9, 2009 12:48 PM

Mark Vogel and Rosecroft Raceway have agreed that the Greenbelt-based developer will buy the harness racing track for more than $10 million.

The board of directors for Cloverleaf Enterprises Inc., which owns the Prince George’s County track, approved the sale Wednesday night in a unanimous vote, according to Cloverleaf President Kelley Rogers.

“We are thrilled,” said Rogers. “It’s going to allow for a long-term future here at Rosecroft. I think Mark’s going to be a good owner with great ideas.”

Vogel said Thursday he was not ready to reveal more specifics, including the exact price for the track, because he was still ironing out an agreement with a lender. But he said a portion of the deal included money for subsidizing live racing.

Although Vogel, who has been in talks with Cloverleaf for months, said he was excited to move forward, he also said he is anxious to reach an agreement with Maryland’s thoroughbred industry on Rosecroft’s right to simulcast and take bets on thoroughbred races.

“The truth is none of that really matters until we have a simulcast agreement,” Vogel said. “And without simulcast, Rosecroft goes nowhere.”

Rosecroft stopped live racing last year, and simulcast betting is its only form of gambling revenue. The Maryland Racing Commission shut off Rosecroft’s thoroughbred simulcast signal in April because Cloverleaf refused to pay the Maryland Jockey Club’s rights fee of $5.9 million per year, saying it had become burdensome to its operations.

The jockey club’s parent, Magna Entertainment Corp., filed for bankruptcy in Delaware in March.

Although a circuit court judge ordered the signal turned back on in May, Rosecroft is still not receiving signals from 18 thoroughbred racetracks for which TrackNet Media, co-owned by Magna, is the authorized agent.

Rosecroft’s simulcasting now consists mostly of harness and quarter horse races with limited thoroughbred races.

This week, Cloverleaf filed a $20 million suit against the jockey club and 16 other defendants in protest of what it sees as a breach and interference of its contract with the out-of-state racetracks (separate from its contract with Maryland thoroughbred tracks).

Vogel said he does not want to get involved in the suit and is still trying to work out an agreement as the new owner of Rosecroft. The original agreement with the state’s thoroughbred industry, which is the jockey club, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, and the Maryland Horse Breeders Association Inc., was a 15-year deal struck in 2006.

But Vogel said the horsemen recently refused an offer he made to them that included the more than $2 million Rosecroft owed (a prorated portion of the $5.9 million).

“I’m not going to force it, but I’m surprised we don’t have an agreement,” Vogel said.

The general counsel for the horsemen’s association and jockey club President Tom Chuckas did not return calls requesting comment Thursday. However Chuckas, who ran Rosecroft before being hired by the jockey club, has said previously that Magna’s financial problems have placed them “in no position to modify the agreement.”

The Rosecroft sale to Vogel still needs to be approved by the bankruptcy court judge overseeing Cloverleaf’s case in Maryland. The Fort Washington company filed for bankruptcy June 3.

Rogers said while the simulcast suit will continue — with more ahead in the coming days — that was “unfinished business” between Cloverleaf and the thoroughbred industry and he wished Vogel luck in reaching a new agreement for Rosecroft.

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