Former owner says he has tentative Rosecroft deal

Daily Record Business Writer
June 24, 2009 2:55 PM

The former owner of Rosecroft Raceway says he has reached a deal to buy back the bankrupt harness racing track in Prince George’s County — but the Greenbelt developer is still far from clearing another hurdle in bringing live racing back to the track.

Mark R. Vogel, who owned the track in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said Rosecroft parent Cloverleaf Enterprises Inc. has agreed to a deal to sell the track. Vogel declined to reveal the terms and referred all questions to Cloverleaf President Kelley Rogers, who did not return calls Wednesday.

The sale would need to be approved by the Cloverleaf board of directors, which Vogel expects, and the judge overseeing Cloverleaf’s bankruptcy case in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland in Greenbelt. Vogel’s race track license would also have to be approved by the Maryland Racing Commission.

Vogel told The Daily Record this week he would reinstate live racing and plans to push for “alternative gaming” (other than slots) at Rosecroft Raceway in next year’s General Assembly session.

However, the track’s ability to sustain live racing hinges on whether the thoroughbred industry will reauthorize the track’s simulcast agreement that allows it to broadcast thoroughbred races and take bets on them.

“I still plan on going ahead with [buying] Rosecroft, but without simulcast there’s really no way we can do live racing now,” Vogel said Wednesday. “We might at a later time when slots revenue starts coming in or if I can have alternative gaming.”

According to the general counsel for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, the simulcast negotiations are far from over.

“He’s not close to an agreement with the thoroughbred industry,” Alan M. Foreman said. “Obviously we would like to make an agreement and we would like to see Rosecroft back in business, but we don’t want to make a bad agreement because we made a very good one [three] years ago. We’re not going to make an agreement with him just because he’s interested in purchasing the track.”

This spring, the racing commission voted to shut off Rosecroft’s simulcast signal of thoroughbred racing because Cloverleaf refused to pay the Maryland Jockey Club’s rights fee of $5.9 million per year. Rogers at the time called the decision “ridiculous” and “unfair” because the track’s annual handle had dropped from $110 million when the rights deal was struck in 2006 to a projected $69 million this year. Rosecroft stopped live racing last year.

A circuit court judge ordered the signal turned back on in time for the Kentucky Derby last month. Currently, the track’s simulcasting consists mostly of harness and quarter horse races with limited thoroughbred races.

Cloverleaf filed for bankruptcy protection on June 3.

Since Cloverleaf purchased Rosecroft in 1995, it has come close to selling the track four times, including to the Peter G. Angelos family and Penn National Gaming. Foreman noted that some of those negotiations fell through because a consensus could not be reached on the simulcast agreement.

One option for Vogel could be reworking the 2006 agreement to include going back to a fee for the simulcast rights based on the percentage of the track’s handle.

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