De Francis closes in on first OTB deal

October 23, 1992|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

LAUREL -- Maryland racing is moving closer to its initial foray into the development of an off-track betting system.

Laurel-Pimlico track operator Joe De Francis hopes to have a deal signed for the state's first off-track betting parlor in the next three weeks to a month.

Ted Snell, president of Rosecroft Raceway and Delmarva Downs, said "we're together on this. We hope to have three to five locations on line in the near future with other outlets being discussed in 1993."

De Francis said yesterday he hopes that either one or two OTB parlors, in the Frederick and Hagerstown areas, will be open by Jan. 1.

"We are looking at specific sites right now," he said. "Talks have ++ not yet progressed to the point of signing contracts, but they should within the course of a month and contingent on hearings before the Maryland Racing Commission."

De Francis added that Cecil County, specifically a parlor located in Elkton, has now moved up to priority status since nearby Delaware Park stopped simulcasting Maryland racing cards earlier this month.

Snell added that sites in Cambridge and Chesapeake Beach (near Prince Frederick) are also on his list of possible OTB locations.

In a related development, De Francis said he is meeting Wednesday with Rosecroft officials and hopes that cross-simulcasting arrangements between the thoroughbred and harness tracks will be completed that day.

A 90-day experimental inter-track wagering operation in which Laurel thoroughbred races would be shown in the afternoons at Rosecroft and harness races would be shown at night at the Laurel and Pimlico tracks could be functioning by the Thanksgiving to Christmas holiday period.

De Francis reached agreement with thoroughbred horsemen on financial aspects of the Rosecroft deal last week.

Snell is meeting on Monday with the board of the Cloverleaf harness horsemen's association to try to reach a similar agreement before Wednesday's meeting with De Francis.

Snell said he was optimistic about the meeting with his horsemen, "but I'm going to go though this and discuss it with them in great detail. Remember we also have to have the support of the thoroughbred and harness breeders."

J.W.Y. Martin Jr., president of the Maryland Horse Breeders' Association, the thoroughbred breeders' organization, indicated last week that his group provisionally supports aspects of the Rosecroft and OTB deals pertaining to breeders. Specifics were discussed the same day De Francis struck his deal with the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.

De Francis said that among the matters being discussed on Wednesday with Rosecroft management will be the logistics of operating the inter-track facilities.

"We want to run the afternoon segment of the operation and let Rosecroft run the evening segment," De Francis said. Laurel would lease the Rosecroft facility in the afternoon and then Rosecroft would lease the Laurel facility at night.

Snell said he had no problems with that concept.

De Francis said opening up Rosecroft for thoroughbred simulcasting in the afternoons will mean hiring an inter-track operations manager at the Fort Washington site as well as employing an additional daily work force.

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