Rosecroft to stay open after getting a cash infusion

Racetrack was in danger of closing if General Assembly didn’t allow gaming

April 13, 2010|By Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun

Rosecroft Raceway, a Maryland horse-racing track, will remain open even though state lawmakers didn't pass gambling legislation the track said it needed to survive.

The management at bankrupt Rosecroft, which is owned by Cloverleaf Enterprises Inc., said Tuesday that it obtained the promise of a $350,000 cash infusion from a businessman who has been trying to buy the track. Management also has a separate $150,000 loan that could help keep the track open through July 1.

"The cash-flow issues are resolved, at least for the time being," Cloverleaf President Kelley Rogers told the Maryland Racing Commission on Tuesday.

The commission was trying to decide whether to renew the operating license for the Prince George's County track. The viability of the track was a key factor in the commission's decision to renew the license in a 5-1 vote.

The track's financial picture didn't look so promising last week, when the owners told employees to start looking for other jobs. They said they would close April 19 if legislation that could have brought poker, blackjack and other table games did not pass. A letter written to about 200 workers at the track said their future was "in the hands of the Maryland legislature."

But the General Assembly session ended Monday, and the legislation that would have put the card games issue to a referendum stalled in a House committee after passing in the Senate.

Mark Vogel, who has been trying to buy the raceway but was denied recently by a Delaware bankruptcy judge, stepped in with money to keep the track open. The bankruptcy court still must approve the loan from Vogel.

Vogel could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Rogers said that Vogel also plans to submit another plan to buy the track out of bankruptcy.

John Franzone, chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission, questioned whether Cloverleaf used the threat of a shutdown as a "ruse" to try to strong-arm the General Assembly into passing the gambling legislation.

Rogers denied the allegation. At the time the track warned of a shutdown, he said, it didn't have enough cash to operate beyond 30 days.

"I am not going to allow any of our vendors at the track to go unpaid," Rogers said.

Franzone was the only commissioner to vote against extending the Rosecroft license.

"I don't think the track is financially viable," Franzone said.

He questioned nearly $1 million in legal fees the track has racked up in about a year, among other things. Rogers said the track still owes about $250,000 of those fees.

Franzone said that money could have been put back into the track. He added that he would like to see Rosecroft invest more in bringing live racing back to Rosecroft.

"This isn't about racing," Franzone said. "This is about keeping the track alive until they can get poker down the road."

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