Pascal, partner to bid for track

Ex-county executive, Pr. George's businessman want to buy Rosecroft

Anne Arundel

December 03, 2003|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

A former Anne Arundel County executive has teamed up with a Prince George's County businessman in an attempt to buy a harness-racing track that could become a profit dynamo if slot machines are legalized in Maryland.

Robert A. Pascal confirmed yesterday that he and partner Carl D. Jones are among the dozen groups bidding to purchase Rosecroft Raceway in Oxon Hill, just off the Capital Beltway in Prince George's. Because of its proximity to Washington, the track is considered a lucrative venue if the General Assembly allows slot machines at racetracks, a priority of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

"It's a good piece of property," said Pascal, who was a Republican state senator before serving as Anne Arundel executive from 1974 to 1982. "There's good potential that gaming might happen. It's worth the effort."

After his tenure as executive, he spent seven years as an aide to then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer, screening applicants for boards and commissions.

Jones, the other principal, is an African-American businessman with close ties to Prince George's politicians. He was formerly a partner with an Indiana-based group, Centaur Inc., which had an agreement to buy the track but failed to meet a Nov. 1 deadline to complete the purchase.

Pascal said he and Jones did not know each other until "a couple of months ago," when the two met at a political fund-raiser for Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the House minority whip from Southern Maryland. "I liked him right off the get-go. He and I both sold our businesses and are looking for investments."

A former paving company owner, Jones did not return a call for comment yesterday.

His attorney, Robert B. Schulman of Baltimore, said Jones was hopeful that lawmakers would legalize slot machines next year to help close a projected budget deficit, but intended to complete the purchase regardless of whether a bill passes.

Jones "lives near Rosecroft, and he's had interest for many years in owning a racetrack," the attorney said.

Schulman said that Jones and Pascal were the only partners in the bidding group Chesapeake Rosecroft Development Co.

Pascal is also friends with House Speaker Michael E. Busch, the Annapolis Democrat and chief roadblock to Ehrlich's slots-at-racetracks initiatives.

Busch said yesterday that he did not know that Pascal was bidding to purchase the track. Pascal said he had had no conversations with Busch about the deal, or about the prospect of the House of Delegates approving a slots plan during next year's General Assembly session.

"Mike is going to do, as always, what he thinks is right," Pascal said. "If this has a place in that scenario, that's fine. If not, this location has value without gaming."

The Pascal and Jones partnership faces competition for the right to buy the property. Other bidders include Magna Entertainment Corp., which owns the Laurel and Pimlico race courses, both potential slots venues; the casino companies Harrah's Entertainment and Isle of Capri Casinos Inc.; and a group headed by the son of Peter G. Angelos, an attorney and Baltimore Orioles owner.

Board members of Cloverleaf Enterprises Inc., the owners of the harness track, plan to begin narrowing the list of potential buyers today, with hopes of making a selection by Dec. 12, said Thomas Chukas Jr., chief executive officer.

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