The National Bank of Washington yesterday agreed to make funds available to pay off horsement who had been unable to collect money owed them by the troubled Laurel Raceway harness track.
The counsel to the Maryland Racing Commission said yesterday that the bank, which foreclosed on the track earlier this fall, would put $350,000 in an escrow account to be used to pay off the horsemen.
"The state indicated to the National Bank of Washington that we would be happy to see the bank satisfy the horsemen's debt," said Allen Foreman, counsel to the racing commission. Foreman said that the horsemen, whose livelihood depends on the money, are among the hardest pressed of the track's creditors.
NBW foreclosed after the track's owners defaulted on a $4.5 million loan from the bank. One of the track's owners, Joseph Shamy, was convicted by a federal jury in Baltimore Dec. 14 on charges that he raided the track's treasury to pay personal debts.
NBW had scheduled an auction of the majority stock in the raceway (not to be confused with the thoroughbred Laurel Race Course) for Dec. 13, but the auction was postponed. No new date for the auction has been set.
Foreman said that a problem in auctioning off the stock may be that prospective buyers have no clear picture of the raceway's financial status. A certified public accounting firm, Coopers and Lybrand, is currently auditing the raceway's books for the commission.
Any buyer of the stock from the trustees for NBW must obtain commission approval before they can operate the raceway, according to Foreman. Racing dates were granted to Laurel on that condition.
The raceway also owes the state of Maryland approximately $250,000 for assorted taxes and fees and owes betters who were unable to collect on winning tickets approximately $30,000, Foreman said. The state has allowed the raceway until April 15 to settle those debts, he said.
Further complicating the already complicated question of ownership of the raceway and its assets, is Shamy's conviction, which raises the possibility that the federal government might assert a claim to the raceway under racketeering statutes.
Foreman said that the racing commission will seek legislation in the Maryland General Assembly that would allow the commission to operate the raceway if the commission finds it necessary.