The Maryland Racing Commission gave horse owner Joseph Allen approval to race in the state yesterday despite a legal problem, and it called in a Rosecroft Raceway official for an update about the state's main harness track, whose owner has financial problems.
With eight of its nine members moving in and out of the session to attend to their own commitments, the board conducted hearings and meetings for six hours in its monthly session at the Timonium fairgrounds.
Eight members were available for an executive session early in the morning when Rosecroft general manager Jim Murphy was called in for a report on the track and its owner, Mark Vogel, who pleaded guilty Tuesday in Virginia to a charge of possessing cocaine.
Vogel has been ordered by the commission to stay out of the Rosecroft operation because he had been taking some racing-generated funds to pay off other debts.
Vogel's legal and financial troubles have led to speculation that he might be forced to sell Rosecroft and the Delmarva Downs plant, also used for harness racing, near Ocean City.
Murphy said later that he hadn't been able to help the panel much "other than to say that I believe Mark would rather keep Rosecroft if he can see any way to do it. But I'm not in on his financial dealings, so I couldn't help them much."
Murphy, who also is general manager at Atlantic City Race Course, spent the latter part of the morning on his car phone dealing with operation of that track, a thoroughbred facility.
"I did give them some information about New Jersey racing," he said. "I told them that to my best understanding, Philadelphia Park plans to operate all year in 1991 and that could be ruinous to both Philadelphia Park and to Garden State Park [20 miles away in New Jersey].
"I also alerted them that Philadelphia Park will soon open an OTB facility at Drexel Park, which is within about 20 minutes of Delaware Park."
By the time Allen's case came up, three commissioners were there, but under recent procedures established, that was a sufficient number to conduct hearings.
Allen appeared with George Beall, a prominent Baltimore lawyer, who explained that his client had been convicted of two misdemeanor tax violations. Beall described them as "bookkeeping violations."
They involved his business in Connecticut, which converts newsprint unsuitable for high-speed presses into other products, such as flat sheets and counter rolls.
He pointed out that Allen had been placed on probation for five years, had been fined $200,000 and was ordered to serve 1,000 hours of community service. Since racing commissions generally challenge prospective licensees when they are felons, the commissioners considered Allen's record and declared that they saw no reason to punish him further. He will be permitted to continue racing in this state.
Allen has received approval to maintain an owner's license in several other states, Beall said.
1991 racing dates
The Maryland Racing Commission approved the following dates yesterday:
Laurel Jan. 1 through March 13
Pimlico March 14 through July 3
Laurel July 4 through Aug. 23
Timonium Aug. 24 through Sept. 2
Pimlico Sept. 5 through Oct. 9
Laurel Oct. 10 through Dec. 31