Deal Allows for Temporary Simulcasts in Maryland

Maryland's Thoroughbred interests have reached agreement with Rosecroft Raceway, a harness track in southern Maryland, on a 90-day resumption of Thoroughbred simulcasting at Rosecroft and the return of night simulcasting at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course.

Representatives of the two sides began negotiating June 8 after a contentious Maryland Racing Commission meeting at which Thoroughbred leaders objected vehemently to Rosecroft's request to begin simulcasting Thoroughbred races without compensating the state's Thoroughbred interests. The commission didn't rule on Rosecroft's request but urged the two sides to work out an agreement.

Joe De Francis, president and chief executive officer of the Maryland Jockey Club, said Thoroughbred simulcasts would return to Rosecroft June 10, and Pimlico and Laurel would open for evening simulcasting beginning June 11. The agreement will last 90 days, said Alan Foreman, attorney for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.

Tom Chuckas Jr., chief executive officer of Rosecroft, told commissioners the track needed the revenue from Thoroughbred simulcasts to remain viable and to help it attract a buyer.

"This gives them breathing room to try to sell the track," Foreman said.

Representatives of Rosecroft couldn't be reached for comment.

Chuckas said at the commission meeting Rosecroft was on the verge of bankruptcy. He said the track lost $1.4 million in 2003 and had lost $1.7 million since April 19. That's when the Thoroughbred coalition pulled the plug on thoroughbred simulcasting at Rosecroft, a move that has hurt both sides. Forced to shut down Pimlico and Laurel after 6:15 p.m. EDT, the MJC has lost $1.6 million since April 19.

Chuckas told commissioners four parties had shown interest in buying Rosecroft, which remains a potential site for slot machines if they're ever legalized in Maryland. Chuckas didn't name the interested parties.

Rosecroft is embroiled in court battles with two former suitors, Centaur Racing, an Indiana company that contends it still has the right to buy Rosecroft, and the Laurel-based Northwind Racing. Northwind failed in its bid to buy Rosecroft when the racing commission last month denied its license application.

But Northwind had purchased Rosecroft's mortgage. Northwind has gone to court in Prince George's County to freeze Rosecroft's funds in a Virginia bank because, according to court papers it filed, Rosecroft is "operating at severe monthly losses."

Rosecroft and Northwind were scheduled to meet in court again June 9, but the date was postponed until June 23 to give Northwind time to evaluate Rosecroft's simulcasting agreement with Thoroughbred interests.