Penn National Gaming Inc. said Aug. 7 it will continue to offer live harness racing at Rosecroft Raceway in Maryland for two more years--if another Prince George's County location isn't chosen as the location for a casino.
The Maryland General Assembly will begin a special session Aug. 9 to tackle the issue of expanded gambling, including table games for existing video lottery terminal casinos and creation of a sixth license in Prince George's County near Washington, D.C. A top county official has said the casino should be located at the National Harbor complex not far from Rosecroft.
PNGI officials repeatedly have said they will lobby for a casino at Rosecroft and fight efforts to give the license to National Harbor casino developers.
The live racing agreement with the Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners Association calls for 54 nights of live racing split between spring and fall meets. The agreement says all races will have a Maryland-owned or -bred preference.
Rosecroft reopened for live racing after PNGI purchased it at a bankruptcy auction. It remains in a dispute with Thoroughbred interests over full-card simulcasts; it can only offer Standardbred and Quarter Horse racing.
PNGI about two years ago vacated an agreement that made it a partner in the Maryland Jockey Club tracks now operated exclusively by The Stronach Group.
"We are very pleased to be working with the Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners Association to make Maryland Standardbred racing great again," said Chris McErlean, corporate vice president of racing for PNGI. "Our priority is to give Maryland horsemen the greatest opportunity possible to earn a living, grow their business, and rebuild the industry.
"This does require a financial sacrifice from Penn National to maintain our commitment to the Maryland Standardbred industry, but we are willing to take that risk. We could think of no better way to illustrate our commitment to the Maryland Standardbred industry as a whole than to commit to 100% of our races being Maryland-preferred. We are proud to be in Maryland and pleased to be working with the horsemen."
Cloverleaf executive vice president Sharon Roberts said the organization hopes the harness industry is considered during the special legislative session.
"I hope our legislators will keep our futures in mind when they meet in special session, and hope they understand that a casino at National Harbor kills Rosecroft," Roberts said. "I hope the legislature understands how important this decision is for the future of the entire Standardbred industry."
Ocean Downs, Maryland's other harness track, has 800 VLTs. PNGI operates Hollywood Casino at Perryville, another Maryland facility with about 1,500 VLTs; the company has indicated it wants to reduce that number because of competition from the new Maryland Live VLT casino near the Arundel Mills Mall.
Both racing breeds earn 7% of VLT revenue for purses and breed development programs from all facilities in Maryland.