A deal to sell Rosecroft Raceway to Penn National Gaming was announced by both parties yesterday after a full vote of the Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners Association approved the deal that had been tentatively accepted two weeks ago.
"I think this is a very definite positive for the harness industry," said Tom Chuckas Jr., Rosecroft's chief executive officer. "I see it stabilizing racing here at Rosecroft for an extended period of time for the harness horsemen in purses and days of racing. Penn National is a nationally respected company that brings expertise, assets and integrity."
While the two sides have signed a binding letter of intent, the deal will not be finalized until Penn National executes a definitive agreement and then is approved by the Maryland Racing Commission.
"Hopefully, cautiously optimistic, it could be done by the first of November," Chuckas said. "And that's cautiously optimistic."
The track operated 100 days last year and lost $600,000 after taxes.
Neither Chuckas nor Penn National Gaming vice president of public affairs Eric Schippers would disclose financial details, but Chuckas said the selling price is "considerably more" than the $13 million Cloverleaf paid for it 12 years ago.
Unlike a potential agreement with the Peter Angelos family in 2002 that failed, at least in part, because slots legislation was killed by Maryland's legislature, this deal, according to Schippers, is not dependent on slots.
Schippers said Penn National, which also owns Charles Town Races and Slots in West Virginia, has expertise in operating slots and "we hope to share that with the [Maryland] legislature."
Magna vice president and Maryland Jockey Club chief executive Joe DeFrancis has concerns about the deal. "I have to say I'm a little troubled," he said. "Their largest and most profitable operation is Charles Town, which, by the way is the third largest slots facility in the world with 5,000 slot machines and they're expanding to 6,000. Were slots to come to Laurel and Pimlico, we'd have a major impact on their business. ... I'm sure they're [looking ahead]. I'm sure they want a seat at the table should Maryland get slots."