Maryland Racing Commission

Bill seeks ouster of racing panel chairman

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

Racing commission chairman John Franzone says he continues to serve because “the governor hasn’t appointed anyone else.”

The sponsor of a bill that proposes reorganizing the Maryland Racing Commission is asking the governor to immediately remove the chairman of the state’s governing body for horse racing and launch an investigation into the commission’s conduct.

Sen. Anthony C. Muse, D-Prince George’s, said that commission Chairman John Franzone has violated his term limit as by nearly a year, according to the Maryland Business Code, which allows two, consecutive one-year terms as chairman. Franzone was appointed chairman in 2007.

Muse is also asking that Franzone be removed from the commission immediately.

Racing panel’s new look makes some unhappy

Daily Record Business Writer
September 22, 2009 7:21 PM

The faces of the Maryland Racing Commission changed this month when two new appointees officially took their seats — and not everyone is happy with the makeup.

Those in the standardbred industry, which runs the state’s harness racing tracks, say their voice has diminished on the nine-person board while the thoroughbred industry has too much influence.

“If you look at it, it’s not balanced,” said Ralph Hayward, president of the Maryland Standardbred Breeders Association. “I don’t think the commission should be ruling at all on standardbred [issues]…if we’re not adequately represented.”

The two new appointees to represent the standardbred industry are Ernest R. Grecco, president of the Baltimore chapter of the AFL-CIO, and Thomas W. Winebrener, a member of the Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners’ Association and owner of Fox Den Farm in Union Bridge. Grecco has represented laborers in the horse industry from thoroughbred breeders to standardbred breeders to track employees.

Md. Lottery ads concern racing commission

Daily Record Business Writer
September 15, 2009 7:14 PM

Concerns raised by state horse racing officials Tuesday took on a new flavor as some worried events inside the state lines will hurt attendance this fall at Laurel Park.

The comments are a deviation from the industry’s overlying concern that gambling opportunities at race tracks in Delaware and Virginia are drawing attendance away from Maryland’s tracks. Most recently, parlay sports betting opened at Delaware tracks last week.

At a Maryland Racing Commission meeting held at Laurel, commission members expressed their disapproval of a campaign being run by the Maryland State Lottery that advertises Racetrax, a virtual reality horse racing game. They said they felt the ads, which encourage consumers to “experience the sights and sounds of the race track without the smells,” discourages attendance at the real race tracks.

“It’s outrageous to compete against ourselves — especially because we aren’t getting any cut out of this for purses,” commissioner John McDaniel said.

Cloverleaf files $20M suit against MD Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Assn.

Daily Record Business Writer
July 6, 2009 8:04 PM

The bankrupt owner of Rosecroft Raceway filed a $20 million suit Monday against the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, the Maryland Jockey Club and 15 other defendants, and is promising more suits to come against others in the industry.

“Somebody finally had to stand up to these people,” said Kelley Rogers, president of Cloverleaf Enterprises Inc. He added there will be “many more still to come in the days ahead,” including an antitrust action and a possible suit against the Maryland Racing Commission.

Monday’s complaint claims that defendant TrackNet Media Group LLC, co-owned by Churchill Downs Inc. and jockey club parent Magna Entertainment Corp., is interfering with Rosecroft’s simulcast agreement with tracks owned and operated by Churchill and Magna.

Rosecroft, a harness racing track in Prince George’s County, stopped live racing last year, and simulcast betting is its only form of gambling revenue.

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.

Rosecroft Raceway may reopen this weekend

Daily Record Business Writer
May 1, 2009 12:53 PM

Rosecroft Raceway, which earlier this week had its simulcast wagering signal yanked, may be back open to take bets on the Kentucky Derby Saturday.

A Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge has issued a temporary restraining order that would allow the track to regain its televised signal for thoroughbred racing and simulcast wagering, but it is contingent upon payment of a $2 million bond — money that raceway owner Kelley Rogers says he does not have.

Rogers and his attorney are asking the judge to change the order to require a cash bond in the “hundreds of thousands,” Rogers said. With about $700,000 in cash on hand, the bond payment would nearly deplete the raceway’s immediate funds but keep it open for one of its biggest moneymaking days of the year.

Rogers said this year’s projected profit from bets placed during the Kentucky Derby day is about $140,000, if Rosecroft reopens.

Rosecroft Raceway’s simulcast signal is pulled

Daily Record Business Writer
April 28, 2009 7:19 PM

Four days before the Kentucky Derby, the Maryland Racing Commission has voted to cut off Rosecroft Raceway’s simulcast signal of thoroughbred races in response to the track owner’s refusal to pay a $5.9 million fee for the signal rights.

The 6-2 vote came during a contentious commission meeting held at Pimlico Race Course Tuesday. One member was absent from the meeting.

Kelley Rogers, president of Cloverleaf Enterprises Inc., the horsemen-owned parent company of Rosecroft, said after the meeting he intends to file a motion in Price George’s County Circuit Court Wednesday requesting a stay order on the commission’s action.

If granted, the order would allow Rosecroft, which has suspended live racing and functions solely as a simulcast betting site, to take bets on the Kentucky Derby this Saturday.

Senate President Miller: Buy Preakness, build track if Magna sells

Daily Record Business Writer
March 17, 2009 8:05 PM

Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said Tuesday that the state should consider building a racetrack and buying the Preakness Stakes if Pimlico’s bankrupt owner is forced to sell it.

Alan Forman, general council for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horseman's Association, speaks to the Maryland Racing Commission during Tuesday’s meeting at Laurel. Commission Chairman John B. Franzone, left, and Commissioner Louis Ulman listen.But at a meeting of the Maryland Racing Commission later in the day, Maryland Jockey Club owner Tom Chukas said it is “business as usual” right now.

“The bottom line is Maryland live racing will continue, simulcasting will continue and Preakness will continue,” he said.

Chuckas noted that since parent company Magna Entertainment Corp. declared bankruptcy on March 5, the Jockey Club has received a $13.4 million loan to continue operations while the corporation reorganizes.

Miller, D-Calvert and Prince George’s, told reporters Tuesday morning that building a track and buying the Preakness, by far Pimlico Race Course’s biggest money-maker, would be “last ditch” options the state might have to consider to keep Preakness here.

Racing is important to Maryland, Miller added, pointing to stories about George Washington coming from Virginia to wager on horses in Annapolis.

Race commission says marketing needed in addition to slots

Daily Record Business Writer
February 3, 2009 5:45 PM

Maryland racing officials expressed concern Tuesday that if media coverage of the sport continues to decline, slot machines alone could not fill up the grandstands.

 Maryland Racing Commission members John P. McDaniel (left) and Louis J. Ulman (right) listen to chairman John B. Franzone at the board’s meeting Tuesday at Laurel Park.The issue came up at the Maryland Racing Commission’s first public meeting since the Washington Post announced in December it was dropping its regular coverage of horse racing at Laurel and Pimlico racetracks.

“We’re doomed to fail over time,” commission member John McDaniel said at the meeting, which was held at Laurel Park. “We see every other sport being covered and we’ll do whatever we can politically to launch a frontal attack with The [Baltimore] Sun and The Post, but we need to find a way to allocate some money for publicity. Nobody’s going to go to Laurel if it’s not in the paper and they don’t see some enticement to be there.”

McDaniel also said the decline in racing’s popularity in Maryland can’t be solved solely with bigger purses from slots revenue.

“This isn’t just about slots,” he said. “The long-term problem is trying to reinvigorate and get people talking about this sport.”