Daily Record Business Writer
June 19, 2009 8:41 PM
A Greenbelt-area developer with a mottled past as the former owner of the now-bankrupt Rosecroft Raceway is in talks to again purchase the Prince George’s County harness racing track.
But the move could hinge on whether the thoroughbred industry will reauthorize the track’s right to broadcast and take bets on their races.
Mark R. Vogel, president of Mark Vogel Cos. LLC, has been meeting with representatives of the raceway and the thoroughbred industry for about two months to discuss a sale, said Gerald E. Evans, an attorney who is advising Vogel in the negotiations.
“We are trying to settle the long-simmering dispute between Rosecroft and the thoroughbred industry about the simulcast agreement,” Evans said. “If Mark can pull it off I think he’ll start live racing again ... and I think he’d be a terrific owner.”
Evans is also a lobbyist for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, but said he is not acting in the negotiations on behalf of the organization.
Neither Vogel nor raceway owner Kelley Rogers, president of Cloverleaf Enterprises Inc., responded to requests for comment.
John Franzone, chair of the Maryland Racing Commission, said Vogel’s troubled financial history with the track should not be a deterrent to cutting a deal.
“Something has to change there,” he said. “It’s just a bad situation that keeps getting worse.”
Vogel bought Rosecroft in December 1987 and assumed $6 million in long-term debt, according to news reports at the time. Rosecroft and Ocean Downs Racetrack, which Vogel also owned, lost about $1.2 million the next two years, and in 1991 the tracks went into bankruptcy.
Vogel, who made his money in real estate, was also accused of using as much as $2 million from the Rosecroft and the defunct Freestate Raceway accounts for non-racing concerns. As a result, he agreed to relinquish control of the tracks later in 1991 at the recommendation of the Maryland Racing Commission while still retaining ownership.
Cloverleaf purchased Rosecroft in 1995 and since then it has come close to selling the track four times, including to the Peter G. Angelos family and Penn National Gaming.
This spring, the racing commission voted to shut off the track’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.
Franzone said the discussions between Vogel and the horsemen may include a reworking of that 2006 agreement that could include going back to a fee for the simulcast rights based on the percentage of the track’s handle.
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