The stockholders of Rosecroft Raceway have approved the sale of the bankrupt Prince George's County harness track to a former owner.
The move would return the racetrack to Greenbelt real estate developer Mark Vogel, who owned it for four years before financial troubles forced him to file for bankruptcy protection in 1991.
"I'm so excited about it. You have no idea," Vogel said in an interview Thursday. Vogel said he is paying more than $10 million for the track.
Wednesday's vote by the 18 stockholders of Cloverleaf Enterprises Inc., which owns Rosecroft, was unanimous, said Sharon Roberts, executive secretary of Cloverleaf.
The deal with Vogel must be approved by a bankruptcy judge. And the Maryland Racing Commission must approve the transfer of Rosecroft's racing license to the new owner.
Rosecroft, one of two harness tracks in Maryland, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month, creating renewed concerns for standardbred horsemen, breeders and others in the struggling harness industry.
Last July, Rosecroft received permission to suspend live racing because of financial troubles and has been essentially operating as an off-track betting facility.
Vogel bought Rosecroft and Ocean Downs, near Ocean City, in 1987, but his crumbling real estate dealings precipitated his problems with the racetracks.
Vogel said he hopes to bring back live racing by January and wants to attract concerts and other events to the track. Vogel said he's in talks to bring a restaurant to the facility.
But Vogel must resolve Rosecroft's continuing battle with the state's thoroughbred industry over an agreement that requires the track to pay $5.9 million a year to receive simulcast signals for thoroughbred racing. Rosecroft has not made a payment since January and owes more than $2 million.
Rosecroft had been looking for a new deal, noting a huge drop in betting handle from about $110 million when the agreement was signed to a projected $70 million this year.
In April, the Maryland Racing Commission revoked its approval that allowed Rosecroft to receive thoroughbred racing simulcast signals.
This week, Cloverleaf filed a lawsuit against the Maryland Jockey Club, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and 15 other defendants, alleging that they are interfering with Rosecroft's simulcast agreements with out-of-state tracks and seeking $20 million in damages.
Cloverleaf is seeking an injunction that would order the defendants not to interfere with Rosecroft's simulcast agreements. A hearing is scheduled for July 13 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Greenbelt.
Alan Foreman, attorney for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said the lawsuit is without merit and that there has been no progress in resolving the dispute.
Vogel, who is not involved in the lawsuit, acknowledged that settling the simulcast issue is "critical to our success."
"I don't want to go into a deal where there's bad blood," he said. "I'm hoping that everyone can work together."