Vogel to push for ‘alternative gaming’ at Rosecroft Raceway

Daily Record Business Writer
June 22, 2009 7:03 PM

Greenbelt developer Mark R. Vogel would reinstate live racing at Rosecroft Raceway and plans to push for alternative gaming there if he succeeds in buying the bankrupt harness racing track.

“We’re working to get a deal structured where I’m putting up enough money so we can start live racing next year,” Vogel said Monday.

He added he is also hoping for revenue from slots to start coming in next year to boost the track’s purses.

“So the goal is to show Rosecroft can be a prominent live racing venue again,” he said.

Vogel, who owned Rosecroft in the late 1980s and early 1990s, would not elaborate on what alternative gaming he was considering except to say he was meeting with community members on the topic and looking beyond slot machines.

“We’ll be looking into it this summer so we will have to know by the next [General Assembly] session [in January] so we can put in for the legislation,” he said. “There’s no question the track cannot survive without additional gaming.”

Kelley Rogers, president of Rosecroft parent Cloverleaf Enterprises Inc., said Monday he is “very optimistic” that a sale agreement can be reached this week.

“He has money he’s willing to invest, a lot of energy and talent and enthusiasm,” Rogers said of Vogel. “I believe he is absolutely committed to returning to live racing at Rosecroft.”

Vogel, who also owned Ocean Downs Racetrack two decades ago, assumed $6 million in long-term debt when he bought Rosecroft and lost both harness racing tracks to bankruptcy in 1991. 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.

In addition to gaming and live racing, Vogel, president of Mark Vogel Cos. LLC, said he would build a restaurant or café at the track and repave the parking lot to encourage more business. He said he would also provide free rental of the building’s third floor to nonprofits and charities for hosting fundraisers, a practice of his during his last stint as the track’s owner.

Separate from the sale discussions, Vogel is meeting with members of the thoroughbred industry to discuss the track’s simulcast agreement that allows it to broadcast thoroughbred races and take bets on them.

Vogel is being advised by Annapolis attorney Gerald E. Evans, who last week said Rosecroft was a “troubling business venture” without simulcasting.

This spring, the Maryland Racing Commission voted to shut off the 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.

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