Maryland Track Loses Simulcast Rights

The Maryland Racing Commission has pulled the plug on simulcasts at Rosecroft.

A Maryland harness track that hasn’t offered live racing in almost a year also lost its Thoroughbred simulcast rights April 28 when it was ordered by the Maryland Racing Commission to cease operations.

Rosecroft Raceway, which last year said it would suspend live harness racing until 2010 pending results of a November 2008 referendum on slot machines in the state, relies heavily on revenue from Thoroughbred simulcasts. The track, located just south of Washington, D.C., off the Beltway, has been open day and night, seven days a week, for Thoroughbred and Standardbred simulcasts.

In April 26, a new revenue-sharing agreement between Rosecroft and Thoroughbred interests called for the harness track to pay the Thoroughbred industry about $5.9 million a year for the right to simulcast Thoroughbred racing. Given its location, Rosecroft is a major in-state outlet for simulcasts and the live Maryland Jockey Club product at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course.

In a release, the MJC said Rosecroft owes about $2 million thus far this year to the MJC, Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, and Maryland Horse Breeders Association. The MJC indicated Rosecroft officials would not or could not pay the money, so the racing commission pulled its Thoroughbred simulcast rights. Harness simulcasts are allowed to continue.

It wasn’t immediately known whether there will be negotiations to restore signals at the track. Rosecroft must shut down April 29, three days before the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) day simulcast and a little more than two weeks before the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) day simulcast program, both of which are lucrative business days.

Though Rosecroft isn’t one of the locations that can have slots, it would benefit from its share of a projected $20 million a year the harness industry could get from statewide slots operations. The state’s only other harness track, Ocean Downs on the Eastern Shore, has submitted a bid for slots.

Slots revenue, when and if it ever comes, would be split 80-20 between Thoroughbred and Standardbred interests in line with a formula to split pari-mutuel revenue.