Rosecroft Seeks License; No Simulcast Deal

PNGI and Thoroughbred interests in Maryland are far apart on a simulcast deal.

Penn National Gaming Inc. has submitted an application to the Maryland Racing Commission to resume operations at shuttered Rosecroft Raceway June 1, but the company and Thoroughbred interests remain far apart on a deal that would allow the harness track to offer full-card simulcast of Thoroughbred racing.

PNGI, which purchased Rosecroft earlier this year, will request 20 days of live harness racing for 2011 and 54 days for 2012, according to a May 6 release. The company also plans to restore year-round simulcasts of Standardbred and Quarter Horse races, which don’t require an agreement with Thoroughbred horsemen.

Rosecroft, located south of Washington, D.C., and at one time a major simulcast outlet, lost its right to Thoroughbred signals when former owner Cloverleaf Enterprises refused to make payments as part of a cross-breed agreement with Maryland Thoroughbred interests. The MRC backed the Thoroughbred industry in the case.

“Rosecroft is a community asset, and we look forward to working with all area stakeholders to develop a long-term plan that will allow Rosecroft to thrive and prosper once again," PNGI senior vice president Eric Schippers said in a statement. “There is a rich history of Standardbred racing in Maryland, and given our position as the largest operator of pari-mutuel facilities in the country, we look forward to rebuilding Rosecroft’s role in the state’s racing industry and nationwide through simulcasting.”

PNGI said it presented a proposal to the Thoroughbred industry in March but never received a response. The company said it suggested a 50-50 split of all net simulcast revenue—up to $2 million per year—on any Thoroughbred simulcasts imported at Rosecroft with the exception of tracks owned by PNGI.

Alan Foreman, chief executive officer for the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and chief counsel for the Maryland THA, said May 7 the PNGI proposal “gives Thoroughbred signals to Rosecroft for essentially nothing.” He said the $2 million cap is something Cloverleaf offered before it violated the terms of the cross-breed agreement.

“It’s the same proposal in a different disguise,” Foreman said. “We rejected it out of hand. It’s a non-starter.”

Foreman claimed the Thoroughbred industry had made its own offer to split simulcast revenue 50-50 after appropriate fees are paid, but PNGI wants to take all expenses--$8 million or $9 million—off the top, “which would leave next to nothing,” he said.

Under a 2011 law, the two parties are required to negotiate a new cross-breed simulcast contract. Not having one in place by June 1 wouldn’t jeopardize live harness racing and non-Thoroughbred simulcasts at Rosecroft.

If a deal isn’t in place by Oct. 1, the law provides for binding arbitration.

PNGI has indicated it plans to lobby for alternative gaming at Rosecroft, perhaps during the 2012 legislative session.

“By restoring and ultimately expanding operations at Rosecroft, Penn National can play a major role in saving the Standardbred industry and returning live harness racing to this historic track,” Schippers said.