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Maryland ruling delays Rosecroft reopening

Thursday, July 7, 2011  By: Harnessracing.com

Maryland ruling delays Rosecroft reopening

Ocean Downs is presently in the midst of a summer harness meet, and the state could still see racing resume at Rosecroft Raceway this year. However, any specific reopening date for Rosecroft is now on hold after the Maryland Racing Commission issued only a “conditional” license to Penn National Gaming on Wednesday. The conditional license means that Penn National must agree to cover any operating losses for 2011 and 2012.

Tom Winebrenner, who operates the Standardbred breeding farm Fox Den Farm, is a member of the Maryland Racing Commission. “The commission has always required a two-year business plan; it was the same standard that’s always been applied,” said Winebrenner of the licensing process. “We were concerned that they made no commitment for racing. They plan for 20 nights of racing this year at $18,000 a night in purses and 54 nights next year with $18,000 a night again.”

Tom Cooke, president of the Cloverleaf Standardbred Association, was still trying to figure out what had happened the day after the meeting. “At one point I thought I was attending a Thoroughbred hearing because of how much time was spent on the Thoroughbred simulcasting issue with Rosecroft," said Cooke.

"This is definitely a setback,” continued Cooke. “We thought Penn National would be announcing that we were open at the end of July for simulcasting. Now we simply don't know anything."

Cooke noted that before the commission adjourned the meeting on Wednesday, Penn National had agreed to post a $1 million bond through the end of December to cover any losses. “It wasn’t enough for the commission,” he observed.

Penn National had planned to open for a small harness meet this year even if it did not yet have an agreement with the Maryland Jockey Club for simulcasting Thoroughbred races into Rosecroft for wagering. The two parties had until July 1 to work out a deal on their own, but now mediation will begin with the parties and the state Department of Labor. If that fails to bring about an agreement, an outside party will be called in for binding arbitration.

Legislation passed earlier this year by the Maryland legislature requires Penn National and the Maryland Jockey Club to have a cross-breed simulcasting agreement in place before either part can share in any state-sanctioned supplement from casino revenues.

Penn National projected operating losses from 2011 through 2013 at $2.3 million. Steve Snyder, Penn National's senior vice president for corporate development, said losses would be just $12,500 during the same period if the track could strike a simulcast deal.

As of mid-day Thursday, there was no additional information from Penn National regarding the company's next step in Maryland.--harnessracing.com

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