Rosecroft deadline extension denied

Centaur files suit to block deals with other suitors

October 28, 2003|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

The owners of Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's County have refused to extend a Nov. 1 deadline for an Indiana-based casino company to complete its purchase of the track, throwing into question the future ownership of a potential location for lucrative slot machine gambling.

Centaur Inc. responded by filing a lawsuit yesterday in Marion County Circuit Court that seeks to block Rosecroft's owners from striking a new deal with any other potential buyer.

The harness track in Oxon Hill just off the Capital Beltway is regarded by gambling experts as potentially the most lucrative site in Maryland for a huge slots emporium.

Centaur has exclusive rights to buy the track from its owners, Cloverleaf Enterprises, a group owned by harness-horse owners, trainers and drivers, for $55 million.

The agreement set a Nov. 1 deadline for completing the purchase. Centaur stands to forfeit a $2.5 million deposit if it fails to meet the deadline.

Thomas Chuckas Jr., Rosecroft's chief executive officer, said, "It appears as [if] Centaur is trying to artificially extend the Nov. 1 deadline." He said Cloverleaf "will honor our contractual obligations and considers the Nov. 1 deadline firm."

Chuckas said Centaur representatives approached Cloverleaf last week for an extension of the deadline. But he said Centaur executives were unwilling to agree to the commitments Cloverleaf sought in exchange for extending the deadline. He declined to elaborate on Cloverleaf's demands, or to say if the company would seek a new buyer.

In its suit, Centaur Inc. claims that its agreement to buy the track remains in effect until administrative actions pending before the Maryland Racing Commission can be resolved.

The regulatory actions relate to a "revenue sharing" agreement that determine how the profits from simulcast betting are split between thoroughbred and harness racetrack owners.

Centaur says that Rosecroft "cannot be operated at a profit or on a break-even basis by Centaur or any other party" if it is forced to accept the terms of the existing revenue sharing agreement.

The suit filed yesterday marks the second time that Centaur has found itself in court in recent months.

One would-be partner, Buffalo-based Delaware North Companies, sued Centaur this year when it sought to end their business relationship.

Both parties later agreed to end the litigation and go separate ways.

The suit filed yesterday asks a judge to find that Centaur's purchase agreement with Rosecroft's owners remains in effect until "the earlier of (a) the date the administrative actions become fully resolved and non-appealable and (b) Nov. 1, 2008."

David Dawson, a Centaur spokesman, said Centaur made it clear in filings with the Maryland Racing Commission that it would not assume the existing revenue-sharing agreement between Cloverleaf and the Maryland Jockey Club, which owns the state's major thoroughbred tracks.

He said Centaur stressed that "the status of the revenue sharing agreement is a crucial element in determining Rosecroft's future financial success."

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