Without Slots, Officials Fear 'Rosecroft Is Done'

Wednesday, July 16, 2008; E02

Representatives of Rosecroft Raceway told the Maryland Racing Commission yesterday that the struggling harness track in Fort Washington no longer could afford to stage live racing.

At its monthly meeting, the commission approved a request by Kelley Rogers, president of track operator Cloverleaf Enterprises, to continue to offer harness and thoroughbred simulcast wagering at Rosecroft while discontinuing live racing.

The track, which opened in 1949, ran live races two nights a week from Feb. 1 to June 28 this year. Like most racing in Maryland, Rosecroft has been pummeled by the advent of slot machines at tracks in neighboring states.

The track will host sire and bred fund stakes races in November and December, races that already have been paid for by breeders, owners and trainers.

"Nobody wants live racing to end in the state of Maryland, but our economics leave us no choice," Rogers said. "With Delaware, West Virginia and Pennsylvania having slots, we were getting killed."

A House bill passed at the recent state legislative session called for the formation of a task force to study the possibility of thoroughbred racing at Rosecroft. Industry leaders, however, said the concept faces huge obstacles: The state would have to authorize a new operating license for the track, and the cost of reconfiguring the five-eighths-of-a-mile banked track would be prohibitive.

Rosecroft's survival likely hinges on whether voters approve slot machines in a November referendum.

"Without slots, I don't know who would come in and put up that kind of money," said Cricket Goodall, executive director of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association.

"If the referendum doesn't pass, Rosecroft is done," said John Franzone, the racing commission chairman. "If the referendum fails, [Rosecroft] could be an apartment complex."

Also at the meeting, the commission approved thoroughbred racing dates for the Maryland State Fair in Timonium from Aug. 22 to Sept. 1, and for a 13-day summer mini meet beginning Aug. 8 at Laurel Park.

-- John Scheinman

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