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Orioles owner Angelos is interested in buying Rosecroft Raceway

By Hannah Cho
Wednesday, January 5, 2011; 11:11 PM

Baltimore lawyer and Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos is interested in buying the bankrupt Rosecroft Raceway, but he faces potential competition from other bidders as well as opposition from state officials to legalizing slot machines at the Prince George's County horse-racing track.

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said Wednesday that he is focused on getting slots casinos at the five locations approved by voters up and running "before we talk about expanding" gambling at other places. And despite support for slots at the Rosecroft harness racetrack by state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), other lawmakers may not be ready to reopen the debate.

A number of interested buyers were outbid by Angelos in a previous round, but they could still take part in a proposed auction this month. Angelos agreed to pay $9 million in cash and an additional $5 million if slots are permitted in Prince George's and a Rosecroft casino is operational by Dec. 1, 2012, according to court documents filed this week.

On Wednesday, Greenbelt real estate developer Mark Vogel, who previously owned Rosecroft Raceway, said he is "definitely making a bid" for Rosecroft. He added that he's not interested in putting slots at the facility.

Any new bid must be at least $550,000 higher to qualify in an auction against Angelos's "stalking horse," or lead bid, said Michael J. Lichtenstein, a Potomac attorney for the bankruptcy trustee in the Rosecroft case. The auction and any final purchase agreement would need court approval.

"We're anticipating others to show up," Lichtenstein said. "The idea is to get as many bidders as possible."

The interest in Rosecroft represents a reversal of fortune. The harness track filed for bankruptcy in June 2009 and operated as an off-track betting site for two years before closing in July.

Under new ownership, the track could run races again. Angelos, who could not be reached to comment, said in court papers that he would apply for a license with the Maryland Racing Commission with the goal of restarting live racing this fall. Vogel also has said he would resume live racing.

While horse-racing boosters have said they would welcome more forms of gambling to attract more visitors and bolster the track's financial health, efforts to allow that have failed before.

Several Prince George's County elected officials opposed having slots in their county when debating legislation that sent the issue to voters in a November 2008 referendum. And last year, the state legislature rejected a bill sought by Rosecroft to legalize poker and other table games there.

This year, expanded gambling at Rosecroft could be a hard sell once again.

"I don't think there will be any appetite in Prince George's County to put slots there," said Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters, a Prince George's County Democrat and chairman of the county delegation, adding that the state needs to focus on its existing slot-machine program.

For his part, Vogel maintains that "slots is not the way to go for Rosecroft."

Both Vogel and Angelos have tried unsuccessfully in the past to buy Rosecroft.

In 2005, the Angelos family agreed to buy Rosecroft, but the deal fell through as prospects for legalizing slots there dimmed. Because Peter Angelos, a thoroughbred horse owner, is prohibited from having a direct ownership stake in a gambling enterprise under Major League Baseball rules, the purchase then was to be made in his wife's name.

- Baltimore Sun

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