Maryland wants to recycle cross-state bike race

Fourteen years after the annual mid-Atlantic cycling race Tour Du Pont abruptly ended, state officials and cycling enthusiasts are trying to bring a race to Maryland in 2012 that could generate as much as $40 million in annual spending.

Tour de Maryland would be a seven-day cycling event covering roads in all five regions of the state — Southern, central and Western Maryland; the Eastern Shore and the capital region, according to Terry Hasseltine, the state’s director of sports marketing who is trying to position the race as a mid-spring precursor to the Tour de France.

“It’s a great way to showcase the state’s tourism assets, and it draws a major international following,” Hasseltine said. “We’re talking the likes of Lance Armstrong and others participating.”

Parent company reaches agreement to buy Laurel, Pimlico before auction

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

To obtain Pimlico Race Course and the rest of Magna’s Maryland assets, MI Developments will pay out about $114 million, including $89 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Magna’s unsecured creditors committee.Maryland’s race tracks have again been yanked off the auction block — this time because their owner has reached an agreement to sell them to its parent company.

Ontario-based Magna Entertainment Corp. on Tuesday notified the six parties who were to bid on the properties, which include Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park, that Thursday’s auction was canceled.

Magna parent MI Developments will pay $89 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Magna’s unsecured creditors committee. That money will be used to pay general unsecured claims against Magna.

MID also will pay about $13 million to cover secured claims of PNC Bank, about $6 million for holders of unsecured claims against the Maryland Jockey Club and $5 million to the former owners of Laurel Park and Pimlico.

Depleted film fund could hurt chances for filming lacrosse movie in Md.

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

The state’s depleted film incentives budget may keep Hollywood’s first sports movie about lacrosse from filming in Maryland where it is recognized as the official team sport.

“Crooked Arrows” is nearing its financing goal of $5 million for production and $2 million for distribution. Reebok has signed on as an official sponsor and co-marketer, the movie’s Facebook group has gone from 1,000 to more than 5,000 fans in the last month and lacrosse publications are chattering away about the film.

The film is slated to shoot this fall with a release after the lacrosse season in the summer of 2011. Co-producer J. Todd Harris said Friday he was “definitely looking at Maryland” to shoot the film, but there’s a hitch.

“The concern is that Maryland’s funds are more limited,” said Harris, who has produced 35 films in the last 15 years including “Bottle Shock” and “Jeepers Creepers.” “The kitty doesn’t have as much in it. If we make a five-million-dollar movie you should get back about a million and a quarter.”

Judge: No slots profit for De Francis

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

Joseph De Francis is one of the bidders for Magna’s Maryland properties. WILMINGTON, Del. — The former owner of Laurel Park lost his bid Tuesday to keep alive an agreement that would grant him a cut of the proceeds if the race track gets slots.

Now the only way Joseph De Francis, who sold Maryland’s thoroughbred race tracks to Magna Entertainment Corp. in 2002, stands to gain from gaming at Laurel is if he is the winning bidder on the track at its bankruptcy auction this month.

That auction was pushed back to Jan. 21 at the request of Magna. An attorney for the Ontario-based company said at Tuesday’s hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court that Magna wants more time to reach a preliminary agreement with one of the six qualified bidders for its Maryland properties.

Magna would then share that preliminary agreement with Maryland, to give the state the option of exercising its right of first refusal, and the other five bidders.

The auction was originally scheduled for Friday.

He said, he said: Laurel, Cordish officials trade charges

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

Laurel Park officials laid out their case Thursday that their track is better positioned to get a slots facility up and running than the proposed slots site up the road near Arundel Mills, but others say the track has a long way to go — with or without a slots license.

Tom Chuckas, president of the Maryland Jockey Club, disputed the idea that the track is not a viable alternative to the Arundel Mills site. Since 2003, he said, track officials have been working on getting the permits that are required to build a slots facility there.

He said all that’s left is getting a license to operate slots, which could be done within a year if the application process is opened up again.

Laurel Park presents its case for slots

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

Laurel Park officials laid out their case Thursday that their track is better positioned to get a slots facility up and running than the proposed slots site up the road near Arundel Mills — with or without a slots operator license.

Tom Chuckas, president of the Maryland Jockey Club, disputed the idea that the track is not a viable alternative to the Arundel Mills site. Since 2003, he said, track officials have been working on getting the permits that are required to build a slots facility.

Vogel wants to bring poker to struggling Rosecroft Raceway

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer 

Rosecroft Raceway’s owner-in-waiting wants to bring table games to the Prince George’s County harness racing track next year but — as with slots legalization – he could be in for a long struggle.

Greenbelt-based developer Mark Vogel, who is expected to become the new owner of the raceway next month pending a bankruptcy judge’s approval of the approximately $10 million sale, said Tuesday the track is ideal for poker rooms.

He said he plans on running a “full court press” in next year’s legislative session to push legalization.

“I think the momentum has turned in the state, especially in Prince George’s County, because they need the revenues,” Vogel said after a Maryland Racing Commission meeting in Laurel.

No ‘stalking horse’ bid for Md. tracks

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer 

Baltimore developer Carl Verstandig said he wasn’t surprised Magna couldn’t reach an agreement with a ‘stalking horse’ bidder.The bankrupt owner of Maryland’s thoroughbred race tracks is moving forward in its auction of the tracks without selecting a leading bidder, but interested buyers said that change is not a deterrent.

Magna Entertainment Corp. could not come to a purchase agreement late Wednesday with the bidder it had selected to make its “stalking horse bid,” an initial bid chosen by the company that competing groups can bid against.

Ontario-based Magna was scheduled to file a motion Wednesday in federal bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Del., announcing the stalking horse bidder for its Maryland properties — Pimlico Race Course, Laurel Park and Bowie Training Center — and had been in talks with a group that filed in the first round of bidding last week.

But a managing director of Miller Buckfire, the New York-based company handling Magna’s assets auction, said Thursday Magna could not reach an agreement they felt was “deserving” of a stalking horse bid.

“Just because someone puts forward a bid doesn’t mean we have to take it,” said Michael Wildish. “They pushed our limits, and they found them.”

Miller Buckfire will instead move on and wait for the second round of bids for the properties to arrive next month.

Magna’s top bidder selection delayed

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer 

The company that owns Maryland’s thoroughbred race tracks has selected the leading bid for the properties but is delaying the announcement of that bidder until Wednesday.

Magna Entertainment Corp., which declared bankruptcy in March, was scheduled to select a stalking horse bidder by 5 p.m. Monday. The Ontario-based firm instead filed a motion asking a bankruptcy court judge permission to extend the deadline the company set for itself to Wednesday.

A stalking horse bid is an initial bid chosen by the company that competing bidders can bid against.

Magna placed Pimlico Race Course, Laurel Park and the Bowie Training Center on the auction block last month. The auction for the properties is scheduled for Jan. 8.

Verstandig partners up in bid for Md. tracks

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer 

The first round of bids for Maryland’s thoroughbred race tracks were submitted Monday, including a proposal from a group made up of race track operators and a local developer.

Bankrupt Magna Entertainment Corp., which put its Maryland properties back on the auction block last month, will announce its “stalking horse” bid, or an initial offer that competitors can bid against, on Nov. 9. Miller Buckfire, the New York firm handling Ontario-based Magna’s assets auction, is not releasing the number of bids entered by Monday’s deadline nor the names of the preliminary bidders.

But Pikesville developer Carl Verstandig, who had expressed his interest in buying Maryland’s tracks in the past, said Monday he joined in a bid submitted by two out-of-state track operators. He would not reveal the names of the bidders but said they operated tracks and had gaming operations around the country and would likely be interested in bringing slots to Laurel Park if possible.

Jan. 8 set for auction of Pimlico and Laurel Park tracks

Brian S. Rosen (left), the attorney for Magna, after a hearing in Delaware this year.A bankruptcy judge has approved Jan. 8 for the auction of Maryland’s thoroughbred race tracks, and a former owner could be among the potential bidders for the properties.

Joseph De Francis, whose family sold controlling interest in Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course to Magna Entertainment Corp. in 2002, objected through his attorney to the three-month timetable of the proposed bidding process and auction.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware ruled in favor of Magna’s proposal at a hearing Wednesday morning. Bids are due Nov. 2 and the auction will be held Jan. 8.

An attorney for Magna, which filed for bankruptcy in March, said De Francis had been in touch with the Ontario-based company for several months about his interest in the tracks.

“But I don’t think [his proposals] had much substance and we look forward to selling for more real money,” Brian S. Rosen said after the hearing. Rosen added it was likely that De Francis would submit a bid in November.

De Francis said he was “disappointed” by that characterization.

NFL joins slots and racing in Delaware, but Md. officials aren’t worried

Fans at the sports book at Delaware Park in Wilmington keep track of their wagers during Sunday’s games.WILMINGTON, Del. — It’s about 30 minutes before kickoff of the Cleveland Browns-Baltimore Ravens game on Sunday. NFL jerseys dot the landscape, and lines swell to 20 people deep as fans rush to get everything in order so they can get back to their seats for the game.

But this isn’t M&T Bank Stadium — it’s Delaware Park, a race track and gaming venue just 65 miles up Interstate 95.

“I really wouldn’t come here without sports betting,” said Brian Taylor, 35, who came from Reisterstown with two of his friends to bet and watch the Ravens game. “I’ve been to [Las] Vegas to do some betting, and a one-hour drive is much easier than a five-hour flight out there.”

In the time between February, when Maryland accepted applications for slots operators, to last month, when the state awarded its first license, Delaware passed a bill legalizing sports betting and had it up and running for the National Football League’s opening weekend.

But Maryland officials say they aren’t too worried about one of its neighboring states offering yet another gaming option before slots arrive here, despite the number of Marylanders crossing the state line and wagering in Delaware on Sundays.

Guarding athletes’ assets

Daily Record Business Writer
August 24, 2009 8:06 PM

To the average retiree, $50,000 a year in investment income when you’re 65 years old isn’t a bad deal.

But to a 45-year-old former baseball player who was making twice that amount before the recession — and needs his money to last him the rest of his life — it’s a big reality check that can be difficult to take.

Joseph Geier manages the investments for about 60 retired and current athletes.Last year’s stock market plunge, which saw many investment portfolios lose nearly half their value, has caused some retired athletes to make living adjustments and is proving a cautionary tale to those still in the game, advisors to professional and retired athletes say.

Joseph Geier, president of Geier Financial Group in Marriottsville, said the last 12 months have been stressful as head of a company that manages approximately $150 million in assets for about 70 high-net worth clients and 60 retired and current athletes including Cal Ripken Jr., Mark Teixeira and Melvin Mora.

Geier said his company takes a very conservative management style to investments, and the average portfolio under his purview lost 10 to 20 percent of its value while the market lost 40 percent of its value. But when you’re talking about this kind of money, a 20 percent portfolio loss is still in the millions.

Of the athletes, mostly baseball players, he said the retirees are affected most by the downturn.

“They don’t have ability to replace that money that was lost as quickly as someone who’s sill working,” Geier said. “A guy loses 10 percent of his portfolio and he’s only 45 and he’s not working anymore.”

O’Malley slams Anne Arundel County for slots inaction

Daily Record Business Writer
August 6, 2009 7:33 PM

Gov. Martin O’Malley told nearly 250 people at the Maryland Horse Forum that the Anne Arundel County Council’s failure to vote on a slots facility is delaying progress in the horse industry.UPPER MARLBORO — In a speech to the Maryland horse industry Thursday, a frustrated Gov. Martin O’Malley said industry progress is being stalled by the Anne Arundel County Council.

The council has delayed a zoning vote several times that would allow a slot machine at Arundel Mills mall and is not expected to vote until the fall — after the state has awarded the first slot machine licenses elsewhere.

“The Anne Arundel County Council needs to make a decision so we can move forward,” O’Malley said, pounding the podium. “The legislature has made its decision, the voters have made their decision, now Anne Arundel County needs to make a decision.”

The governor was the keynote speaker at the Maryland Horse Forum held at Upper Marlboro’s Show Place Arena. The forum was attended by about 250 people in the racing, recreational and breeding side of the industry, as well as state officials.

In the question-and-answer session after his speech, O’Malley confirmed that the three other sites designated for slots in the state that received licensee applications were moving forward. But the site in Anne Arundel County, which allots for nearly 5,000 slot machines, is by far the largest designation in the state and potentially the biggest revenue generator.

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.”

The long road to uncertainty

Daily Record Business Writer
May 14, 2009 6:57 PM

On a typical Saturday at Pimlico Race Course, longtime Maryland horse racing reporter Dale Austin could walk into the racetrack’s press box and find it flooded with at least 25 or 30 reporters.

“Pimlico was a red-hot place, the hottest in the East,” said Austin, who covered racing for The Baltimore Sun for 29 years. “You could go up to a window in Washington to get a ticket the day of a Redskins game, and, except for Opening Day, you couldn’t fill up the ballpark for baseball games. But there’d be 20,000 people at the racetrack in Maryland.”

But that was in 1962.

And since that time, perhaps the only thing that the horse racing industry nationwide and in Maryland has done is consistently miss the boat, falling further into obscurity and an uncertain future.

Maryland launches online sports venue directory

Daily Record Business Writer
May 8, 2009 9:04 PM

With the launch of a new online directory detailing the state’s more than 600 sports facilities, officials Left to right, Cal Ripken, Jr., President and CEO of Ripken Baseball; Christian Johansson, Secretary of DBED; Terrance Hasseltine, Director of the Maryland Office of Sports Marketing and John Morton III, Chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, announce new state online sports venue directory.say Maryland is finally “ready to play” as a destination for world-class sporting events.

“This is a $182 billion industry and is growing annually,” Terrance Hasseltine, the state’s sports marketing director, said at a press conference Friday at Camden Yards. “It’s time we go out for a bigger piece of that proverbial pie.”

Hasseltine was joined in the announcement by Cal Ripken Jr., whose Ripken Baseball operates the largest youth baseball complex in the state, and representatives from the Department of Business and Economic Development and the Maryland Stadium Authority.

Magna removes Laurel, Pimlico and Preakness from auction list

Daily Record Business Writer
May 1, 2009 6:43 PM

In a last-minute move, Magna Entertainment Corp. has taken Maryland’s thoroughbred racetracks and the Preakness Stakes off the auction block, but city and state officials remain cautious about the future of those properties here.

Magna, which had included Laurel and Pimlico racetracks and the Preakness in its list of assets it wanted to auction, has removed those properties from its assets up for sale in its revised auction procedures proposal submitted late Friday afternoon.

The properties belong to the Maryland Jockey Club, which was the Magna asset removed from the auction proposal. The Bowie Training Center in Prince George’s County is also no longer up for auction.

“We are still looking at our alternatives with respect to those assets, and it is unclear what value can be generated,” said Magna’s attorney, Brian S. Rosen of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP in New York. “Pimlico, with the Preakness, for 364 days a year it lives on that one day a year, and we’re trying to see if there something else that can be done to those assets.”

That includes looking at slots options and further discussions with the state, Rosen said.

Magna can’t bundle properties

Daily Record Business Writer
April 20, 2009 8:31 PM

The state’s position in its fight to keep the Preakness Stakes got a little stronger Monday after a judge ruled that Magna Entertainment Corp.’s Maryland properties could not be bundled with its out-of-state properties in the bankruptcy auction process.

If bankruptcy judge Mary F. Walrath hadn’t ruled in Maryland’s favor, there’s no way the state could have matched bids for the Preakness, Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park, said Raquel Guillory, spokeswoman for the Office of the Attorney General.

“It seems clear that the company is now seriously taking into account the importance of the state’s regulatory and public interest of the racing industry here in the state and it’s certainly a welcome move,” she said.

After bankruptcy filing, Magna to seek approval to sell all its assets

Daily Record Business Writer
March 5, 2009 1:54 PM

The future of horse racing in Maryland lurched further toward uncertainty Thursday after the owner of Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course filed for bankruptcy. Magna Entertainment, the company that owns Laurel and Pimlico racetracks, has filed for bankruptcy protection.

To raise cash, Magna Entertainment Corp. said it was selling its race tracks in Florida, California and Texas to its parent company, and would seek court approval to market its “other” assets — including Laurel and Pimlico — during the Chapter 11 process.

The prospect of Pimlico, home of the Preakness Stakes and the biggest racing day in Maryland, and Laurel Park being up for grabs to the highest bidder has state racing officials upset.

“The thing that concerns me is we don’t know who that could be, and someone could come in and ... run [races for] three weeks at Pimlico because the Preakness is a gold mine, then stay dark the rest of the year,” said John Franzone, chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission. “And that’s not acceptable by any means.”