Developer Hopes to Transform Racetrack in Prince George's

"I just can't wait to get people in here," says real estate developer Mark R. Vogel during a visit to Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington.
"I just can't wait to get people in here," says real estate developer Mark R. Vogel during a visit to Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington. (By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)
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By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mark R. Vogel was once known as the Donald Trump of Prince George's County.

With real estate holdings worth $1 billion in Maryland, Virginia and the District, the developer was at the top of his game about 20 years ago.

But that was all before the economy took a nose dive in the early 1990s and forced him into personal bankruptcy; before financial backers pulled out of many of his projects, sending them into foreclosure; and before an investigation resulted in his pleading guilty to possessing cocaine.

These days, a sober Vogel, who once sought the limelight and relished the accolades that came with it, is slowly and quietly rebuilding his reputation and his portfolio with a handful of residential and retail projects in Prince George's and St. Mary's counties.

He is in the middle of one of his most ambitious plans in years: reclaiming ownership of a beleaguered Prince George's racetrack and lobbying legislators and community groups to allow poker games to be played at the facility.

"My goals are not to be a billionaire," Vogel, 61., said. "In 1985, I'd have 30, maybe 40 projects going on from Ocean City to Spotsylvania to Frederick, and I'll never go back to that. . . . My life is much more orderly, much less stress. . . . Before, I was a prisoner."

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Vogel, who is securing a bank loan and has some investors in an attempt to reacquire Rosecroft Raceway, said the plans for the Fort Washington racetrack are gradually moving in his favor. This month, Cloverleaf Enterprises agreed to sell Rosecroft to Vogel for nearly $10 million. The sale requires a bankruptcy judge to finalize it because Cloverleaf filed for Chapter 11 reorganization last month. Legislators would have to agree to place a referendum on the ballot allowing poker at the racetrack, and voters would have to sign off on the plan before gambling could start.

Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George's) said he will take a "wait-and-see approach" to the idea.

"I'd want to discuss it with the community and with my colleagues that represent that area," said Davis, who plans to work with Vogel on restoring simulcasting from all out-of-state racetracks. Cloverleaf sued 17 defendants this month, including the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, saying they are interfering with the track's simulcast agreements.

"I'm not sure if the votes are there in the delegation and the General Assembly based on past difficulty in expanding gambling," Davis said.

Still, Vogel is optimistic.

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