Slots deliver 1st hit to Md. Delaware gaming has Rosecroft hurting

February 01, 1996|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The first concrete indication of the negative effects slot-machine gambling in Delaware will have on Maryland horse racing came yesterday.

Today's reopening of Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's County was marred considerably when only 48 horses were entered for the harness track's first Saturday program of the year.

"It was very depressing," said Hugh Gallagher, Rosecroft's director of racing.

The development means Rosecroft will run seven live races Saturday instead of the normal 12 and will have to import five simulcasts from Pompano Park in Florida to fill the Maryland card.

Even with the addition of two late entries, Rosecroft will have four races with six- or seven-horse fields instead of the customary eight or nine.

The use of the Florida races as live events also means simulcast revenues will decrease.

"A lot of this has to do with Dover Downs and the prospects there," said Gallagher. "They are offering $48,000 in purses Saturday and a top of $10,000 Sunday. Their purses have already doubled twice."

Delaware began the video-lottery gambling at Dover Downs and Delaware Park in late December. Public response has been overwhelming, and the tracks benefit by receiving a percentage of the profits.

Gallagher said another reason for the horse shortage is a result of the inclement early-January weather that curtailed training time.

"You lose three days of conditioning every day a horse can't get out," he said.

But that is a temporary inconvenience. The Delaware slots pose a different problem altogether.

"We're just going to have to fight it out and see how the [entry] box keeps looking," said Gallagher. "We might change our format if that's what is demanded."

For now, Rosecroft will run a Thursday-through-Sunday schedule through the end of March and appeal for horses wherever it can find them.

"This is a real serious situation," said Gallagher. "We need some real help."

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