Simulcast dispute threatens betting system Rosecroft, Jockey Club at impasse over money

September 26, 1997|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

A top state official has offered to mediate a standoff between the state's harness and thoroughbred industries that could, as early as this afternoon, throw Maryland's horse-betting network into chaos.

Eugene A. Conti, secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, will meet this morning at his office in Baltimore with representatives of Rosecroft Raceway, the Maryland Jockey Club and both sides' breeders and owners.

Despite phone calls, fax transmissions and teleconferences that lasted into evening, the two sides reached an impasse yesterday over a most basic issue of simulcasting out-of-state harness and thoroughbred races: who gets how much of the money.

If Conti cannot mediate an agreement, or an extension of the current agreement, the state's simulcast system falls apart.

Rosecroft Raceway, a harness track in Prince George's County, will not open until 6: 15 p.m. Pimlico and Laurel Park, two thoroughbred tracks open for simulcasts day and night, will close at 6: 15 p.m. No evening thoroughbred races, including those from Colonial Downs, Maryland's partner track in Virginia, will be available for wagering anywhere in Maryland.

"It would be very unfortunate for this thing to blow up at this time," said Conti, who heads a state study commission conducting hearings on ways to help the horse racing industry. "It doesn't present a pretty picture of the industry."

The current agreement, which expired last night, detailed how Rosecroft Raceway and the Maryland Jockey Club divided money bet on simulcast races. The disagreement revolves around money bet on night thoroughbred racing. Rosecroft and the standardbred horsemen and breeders received 65 percent of it. They want 70 percent.

That represents an estimated $200,000 over the course of a year. But to leaders of the standardbred and thoroughbred industries, it represents the core of a long-simmering and complex dispute over the division of simulcast profits.

Pub Date: 9/26/97

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