Horse racing group says National Harbor casino ‘kills Rosecroft’

Two days before the start of a special session of the General Assembly that could pave the way for a casino to be constructed at National Harbor, advocates for a different casino site in Prince George’s County made sure legislators knew what a casino at the gleaming Potomac River development would mean for Rosecroft Raceway.

“We are very hopeful that the future of Rosecroft Raceway and the Standardbred industry are considered when the special session convenes in Annapolis,”  said Sharon Roberts, executive vice president of Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners Association. “A casino at National Harbor will be the final blow to Rosecroft and will destroy our industry. We are so disappointed that County Executive [Rushern L.] Baker would be willing to put the futures of our horsemen, the tracks employees and our breeding industry at risk just as we have begun to rebuild it.

“I hope our legislators will keep our futures in mind when they meet in special session and hope they understand that a casino at National Harbor kills Rosecroft,” Roberts said.

Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns Rosecroft and on Tuesday agreed to a 2-year contract extension to continue harness racing at the track, spent more than $800,000 during the legislature’s regular session lobbying lawmakers to allow a casino at Rosecroft, the most spent by any employer or interest group. Still, legislation that will be introduced in the Senate Thursday is expected to favor National Harbor, where MGM Resorts International Inc. wants to build an $800 million resort casino to cater to wealthy residents of Northern Virginia and visitors to Washington, D.C.

Penn National’s agreement with the horse owners calls for 100 percent of all races to be Maryland preferred with 54 days of live racing to be conducted on two nights of racing per week. There will also be a spring and fall meet.

The agreement allows racing to continue “provided there is no casino approved for a location other than Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George’s County,” a Penn National statement said.

Under Armour CEO may have horse in Preakness

Tiger Walk (Photo: Maryland Jockey Club)

Kevin Plank, founder and CEO of Under Armour, may be entering Maryland horse racing’s biggest stage.

Tiger Walk, a colt at Plank’s Sagamore Farm in Glyndon, could take part in the 137th running of the $1 million Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, the Maryland Jockey Club said. The race is slated for May 19.

The colt has had a third place and two fourth place finishes in three 2012 races.

Horse racing purses receive funding through revenue from state slots. More than $8 million has been allocated for that purpose in fiscal 2012, 7 percent of the nearly $125 million the state has received this year from its two slots casinos in Perryville and Ocean Downs in Berlin.

Md. delegates target racing subsidies

A pair of Montgomery County delegates want to divert the slot machine revenues destined for horse racing purses to education.

If the bill were to pass and the five Maryland casinos were running at full bore, we’re talking $100 million. But for now, slots pump about $450,000 per month into racing purses.

“The majority of Marylanders would like to see $100 million go to education instead of bankrolling the horse racing industry,” said Del. Ben Kramer, a Democrat and cosponsor of the bill.

The bill’s lead sponsor is Del. Luis R.S. Simmons, another Montgomery Democrat.

Through December, then the state’s lone casino had generated $27.6 million in revenue. The state takes two-thirds, with $13.4 million going to education and $1.93 million to boost racing purses. The hope is that the purse subsidy will help both put more money in the pockets of horsemen and attract better horses, which will in turn draw more fans to the racetracks. Just last month, the Maryland Jockey Club announced daily purses would climb $26,000, thanks to the slots revenues.

And that’s not the only state aid going to the racing industry. Gov. Martin O’Malley’s staff is crafting legislation that would extend the state subsidy of operations at Laurel and Pimlico Race Course as the racing industry and state officials look for a way to make racing self-sustaining. At the same time, O’Malley is pushing a budget proposal that does not increase education funding over this year’s levels.

“I think if the industry is going to survive, this (the purse subsidy) is not the catalyst that will help it survive,” Kramer said. “The industry needs to survive on its merits. If the interest isn’t there, it isn’t there.”

Supporters of the state’s aid to the racing industry argue that it supports the preservation of open farm land, and some 9,000 or 10,000 jobs. Kramer, however, said the public education system is of greater importance.

“What we know is critical to the economy is having well-educated children,” he said.

Ocean Downs to resume harness racing in 2011

There will be horse racing in Maryland next year. The questions are how much, what kind and where?

As the future of Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park, the state’s two thoroughbred tracks, is anything but certain, a little certainty is returning the Ocean Downs.

The Maryland Racing Commission granted the harness track outside of Ocean City a 40-day live racing meet for next summer that will follow a schedule similar to 2009.

Ocean Downs canceled its meet this year and held only four weekends of stakes races to accommodate the construction of a track-side casino. With Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George’s County closed and its parent company in bankruptcy, Ocean Downs is the only working harness track in the state.

The casino — it would be the state’s second — is scheduled to open in the first days of 2011, with a test run scheduled for the end of December.

The grand opening is about seven months later than the track’s management had planned. Asbestos and corroded structural steel in the building being renovated to hold the 750 slot machines delayed the Memorial Day weekend kickoff.

O’Malley meets with Stronach, Penn National to discuss Md. horse racing

Gov. Martin O’Malley managed to get the bickering corporate parents of the state’s thoroughbred racing industry in the same room this week, but Penn National and MI Developments have not yet agreed on a plan for the Maryland Jockey Club in 2011.

Liam Farrell, at The Capital, reported the meeting first.

Shaun Adamec, O’Malley’s spokesman, said the governor met Wednesday in the State House with Penn National Vice President Steve Snyder and MID officers Frank Stronach, the chairman and CEO, and Vice Chairman Dennis Mills.

“There weren’t a lot of concrete details discussed in terms of ways forward. It was the first time they sat down since the vote in Anne Arundel County,” Adamec told me. “I can tell you what the tone wasn’t. It wasn’t about circumventing what happened at the ballot box.”

“It was very forward-looking,” he said, meaning how do you keep a horse track afloat sinking the casino development at the mall?

Penn National and MID have two very different notions.

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