CAMBRIDGE - The Maryland Racing Commission declared Rosecroft Raceway to be in an emergency situation yesterday and approved the track's request to discontinue live racing for perhaps as long as two years while allowing it to simulcast races at the Prince George's County facility.
Yesterday, at the commission's monthly meeting, held at the off-track betting facility in Cambridge, the track's new chief executive officer, Edward "Ted" Snell, and Kelley Rogers, president of Cloverleaf Enterprises Inc., presented the track's business plan for the next two years and asked for the declaration of emergency status in order to continue being open for simulcasting.
"Economically, it's not feasible to have the type of purses necessary to run," Snell said after the meeting. "Simulcasting [revenue] will allow us to meet our debts and pay our bills."
Said commission chairman John Franzone: "This is another sad day for Maryland racing. Without Rosecroft - we need that [slots] referendum. We have to realize how close we are to losing everything. Without the referendum, there is no Rosecroft and thoroughbred racing will be what Charles Town was 20 years ago - racing donkeys. Almost all of our proud history is almost out the windows. All it will be is memories."
CEI, which closed the Rosecroft doors to live racing June 28, has a yearly $5.9 million obligation to the thoroughbred industry as part of the 15-year Cross-Breed Agreement that was signed two years ago and a $7.2 million mortgage on the racetrack. Rosecroft management has seen its yearly betting handle fall from $110 million in 2005 to a projected $80 million this year, according to Thomas Cooke, president of the Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners Association.
Rosecroft will save $500,000 through the end of the year by not paying purses for live racing and is saving an additional $1 million through salary cuts and layoffs, Cooke said. By discontinuing live racing, he said, the track should be in the black by "a couple hundred thousand" this year.
The only races that will be allowed are six days of sire stakes and fund races, whose purses are already funded, in November and December.
This year, the Maryland legislature raised the possibility of running thoroughbreds at Rosecroft, passing a bill in the House to create a task force to study the matter. Commissioner David Clogg has been appointed to the task force, which will make a recommendation by the end of the year.
Several members of the racing community, including Snell, racing commissioner John McDaniel and Maryland Horse Breeders' Association executive director Cricket Goodall, voiced strong doubts about the viability of creating a thoroughbred track at Rosecroft. They pointed to the expense of reconfiguring or redesigning the facility, the need for state legislation to create a license for an additional thoroughbred track, and approval by the racing commission as problems. But Cooke said he is "excited" by the prospect.
"Anything we can do to bring harness racing back sooner, I'm for," he said. "The track would have to be redesigned, but the Meadowlands handles both standardbreds and thoroughbreds on the same track. If someone says we could have thoroughbred racing at Rosecroft by next summer and the harness races could be back in the fall - but this is just the first step. It would take a lot of cooperation."
While not being a designated site for any future slot machines, Rosecroft would benefit from being able to participate in revenue sharing for purse money.
Also yesterday, the commission approved the Maryland State Fair meet from Aug. 22 through Sept. 1, with seven days of live racing and three days of simulcasting.
The Maryland Jockey Club received approval for 10 days of live racing from Aug. 8 through Aug. 21 at Laurel Park and four days of simulcasting. Post time will be 3:30 p.m. weekdays, 1:10 p.m. on weekends.