With Rosecroft Raceway set to close in two weeks, Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration is trying to mediate a solution to keep the bankrupt harness track open and preserve 200 jobs.
Maryland Secretary of State John P. McDonough plans to spearhead the last-ditch effort to bring together Rosecroft officials and representatives from the state's thoroughbred industry — an undertaking that will largely square on the parties' feud over an agreement to simulcast thoroughbred horse races.
"I have spoken to the stakeholders, and they have an open mind to work with the governor's office to come up with a solution," McDonough said Thursday. "They have strong opinions on a solution, and it's a matter of reconciling those interests."
Still, McDonough, an attorney who has represented Rosecroft's parent company in the past, acknowledged: "There's no guarantee we could be successful, but we'll try."
Rosecroft announced Tuesday that it would close July 1, blaming the track's demise on the financial arrangement. Rosecroft's closure in Prince George's County leaves Ocean Downs as the state's only harness track. Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park are thoroughbred tracks.
Under the agreement with the state's thoroughbred industry — namely the Maryland Jockey Club, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and the Maryland Horse Breeders Association — Rosecroft is required to pay $5.9 million a year to receive simulcast signals for thoroughbred racing. At the time of Rosecroft's Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing last June, the racetrack owed $1.8 million.
Rosecroft officials have said the arrangement is no longer feasible for the money-losing track. Without the right to simulcast thoroughbred races and no live racing, which the track suspended two years ago to cut costs, Rosecroft has been operating essentially as an off-track betting site.
Kelley Rogers, president of Rosecroft parent Cloverleaf Enterprises Inc., said he was optimistic about potential talks.
"It's exciting that the governor has put the full weight of the office to getting this worked out so the harness industry survives," Rogers said.
Alan Foreman, attorney for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
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