The Maryland Racing Commission has unanimously approved the sale of Rosecroft Raceway to Georgia K. Angelos, wife of Peter Angelos, majority owner of the Baltimore Orioles and a Thoroughbred owner and breeder.
Rosecroft, a struggling harness track in Maryland just outside of Washington, D.C., has been mentioned prominently as a potential site for slot machines. With the debate over legalizing the machines expected to heat up again in the legislative session that opens Jan. 12, Rosecroft's new ownership likely will assume a central role. Georgia Angelos, operating as Rosecroft Holdings, is expected to complete the deal to buy Rosecroft in 30 to 60 days.
"We all know who's the power behind this," said Tom McDonough, chairman of the racing commission. "Having Peter Angelos in the corner of the people trying to get slots to help racing and breeding is a good thing. We've got to get some help from the legislature. I think Peter helps us in that respect. He gets things done."
Peter Angelos didn't attend the commission meeting, nor did his wife. Louis Angelos, their son, represented Rosecroft Holdings as its attorney. He pledged to work with the Thoroughbred industry in a "supportive society," not only to pursue slots but also to resolve long-running disputes and promote racing.
"We are committed to protecting the Maryland racing industry," he said.
Angelos said the industry is in a "dire situation" because of slot machines at tracks in Delaware and West Virginia, and soon in Pennsylvania.
Segments of the Maryland racing industry have frequently been at odds when lobbying for slot machines, but Alan Foreman, attorney for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said he believes the Angelos family's involvement will help solidify the industry.
"Absolutely," Foreman said when asked whether Thoroughbred horsemen could work with the Angeloses. "We'll be able to deal with the Angelos family. The Angelos family comes from a Thoroughbred background. They understand our issues and concerns."
Peter Angelos has been involved in the horse business for more than 25 years. He owns, breeds, and races Thoroughbreds. As majority owner of the Orioles, Angelos is prohibited by Major League Baseball from owning a racetrack. Louis, his son, said Peter Angelos would have no formal involvement in Rosecroft, but that "we'll certainly draw on his knowledge and experience."
According to documents filed with the racing commission, Rosecroft Holdings will pay $13 million for Rosecroft. Already, Rosecroft Holdings has advanced the track $7.2 million to pay off its mortgage with Northwind Racing, which had foreclosed on Rosecroft and was preparing to sell the track at auction. Rosecroft Holdings also advanced the track $500,000 as a deposit. The remaining $5.3 million will be paid at closing.
The sales agreement guarantees 150 days of racing and purses of about $43,000 per day. Last year, Rosecroft raced 117 days and paid purses of about $41,000 per day. The agreement stipulates that if slots come to Rosecroft, 8% of the owner's share of revenue would be added to purses.