By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 8, 2009; 5:15 PM
The parent company of troubled Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's County has filed a $20 million lawsuit against 17 defendants, including the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, alleging that they are interfering with the track's simulcast agreements with out-of-state racetracks.
Cloverleaf Enterprises, which owns the racetrack in Fort Washington, filed the lawsuit Monday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Maryland, company officials said yesterday.
Simulcast racing has been Rosecroft's only source of revenue since it shut down live racing last year. Kelley Rogers, president of Cloverleaf Enterprises, said the track has seen a steep drop in attendance since several out-of-state racetracks stopped their transmissions in April.
The suit, which comes barely a month after Cloverleaf filed for bankruptcy protection, alleges breach of contract and says that the out-of-state racetracks "have failed or refused" to provide the signal.
It also claims that the out-of-state defendants shut down simulcast service "based upon instruction from Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, Maryland Horse Breeders Association or the Jockey Club." The Jockey Club is not named as a defendant. The lawsuit says that Rosecroft's inability to receive the simulcast signals will result in "immediate and irreparable harm . . . to [Rosecroft's] good will among its wagering clientele."
An attorney who is representing the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and the Maryland Horse Breeders Association disputed Rogers's allegations.
"We have not engaged in any of the conduct that Cloverleaf alleges and believe that the lawsuit is without merit," Alan M. Foreman said.
Rogers also blames Cloverleaf's recent financial troubles on a 15-year deal the track made in 2006 with the Maryland Jockey Club, the Maryland Horse Breeders Association and the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. The deal required Rosecroft to pay the three groups $5.6 million a year for the right to simulcast and take bets on thoroughbred racing.
The 60-year-old racetrack received widespread attention when the Maryland General Assembly debated the possibility of legalizing slot machines in the state, despite local opposition to slot machines at Rosecroft. Over the years, the track's suitors have included Baltimore lawyer Peter G. Angelos and Penn National Gaming, a Pennsylvania-based casino operator. Penn National backed out of a deal to buy the track last year after the state legislation did not make Rosecroft eligible for a slots license.
Rogers said yesterday that he is optimistic about a proposal to sell the racetrack to Greenbelt-based developer Mark Vogel. The developer, who owned the track for four years in the 1980s, said that he has a nearly $10 million contract to buy the property, but Cloverleaf's board of directors and the bankruptcy court must approve the sale.