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Jockey club, Penn National deadlock on simulcasting agreement for Rosecroft

Pimlico Race Course at the 136th Preakness Stakes in 2011

The Maryland Jockey Club and Penn National Gaming Inc. will miss a Friday deadline for reaching an agreement on simulcasting thoroughbred races at Rosecroft Raceway.

The two parties had until Friday to hammer out a settlement over how much money would be given to the thoroughbred industry and how much Rosecroft’s owner would keep, according to legislation passed this year by the General Assembly.

“There’s not going to be an agreement today,” said jockey club spokesman Mike Gathagan. Club President Tom Chuckas said the organization is ready to move into the next phase of the process, Gathagan said.

Under terms of the legislation, the next phase would be a mediation led by Secretary Alexander M. Sanchez of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation to reach an agreement by Oct. 1.

Maryland Racing Commission Executive Director J. Michael Hopkins said Sanchez is already moving forward with coordinating mediation.

“[We] have been closely monitoring the situation,” said DLLR spokesman Michael Raia. “We are prepared to step in and serve as an arbitrator as necessary.”

If mediation fails, binding arbitration would settle the issue, according to the legislation. There is no deadline for the arbitration to be completed.

The jockey club has to reach the deal to simulcast races to be eligible for $6 million in operating subsidies in 2012. To qualify for another year of state assistance, the club would have to craft a sustainable plan with horse breeders and owners for the future of the industry that lawmakers find acceptable. That plan is due Dec. 1.

D. Eric Schippers, spokesman for Penn National, said in an email that the company had proposed a 50-50 split of simulcasting money to the thoroughbred industry in March, but there had been no response to the proposal.

R. Thomas Bowman, president of Maryland Horse Breeders Association Inc., said the thoroughbred industry deferred to the Maryland Jockey Club and Chuckas to represent the industry in the negotiations.

The last time Rosecroft and the thoroughbred industry had problems reaching a simulcasting agreement was in 2009, when the then-owner of the track refused to pay a $5.9 million fee for the simulcast signal rights. The Maryland Racing Commission voted to cut off Rosecroft’s signal just days before the Kentucky Derby that year.

The money was owed from a 15-year agreement reached in 2006, before Cloverleaf Enterprises Inc. bought Rosecroft.

Rosecroft was closed last year after Cloverleaf Enterprises declared bankruptcy in 2009 and was no longer able to sustain the Oxon Hill harness track.