Ehrlich: Rosecroft closure could have been avoided
Update, 7:20 p.m.: Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said he is "saddened and disappointed" by news that Rosecroft is closing and has asked Secretary of State John McDonough "to bring together the stakeholders and find a way forward that can protect the 200 jobs at Rosecroft."
"We want to do everything that we can to find a viable way forward, to try to help all of those who would otherwise be affected by the loss of jobs," O'Malley told reporters as he filed for re-election Wednesday in Annapolis.
O'Malley said that slots would have been located only at racetracks "if I had my druthers" and noted that Rosecroft was not among the eligible site because the Prince George's legislative delegation opposed the idea.
Original post: Former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) pounced Wednesday on word that Rosecroft Raceway will soon close, calling the demise of the Prince George's County harness track "a sobering reminder of state government's failure to design a viable gaming program in Maryland."
Rosecroft would have been a beneficiary of slot-machine gambling proposals that Ehrlich introduced starting his first year in office in 2003. During Ehrlich's four years, debate over slots in the General Assembly ended in a bitter stalemate.
Lawmakers passed a bill in 2007, after Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) arrived, that authorized slots at five locations subject to voter approval that came in 2008. Though Rosecroft was not among the eligible venues, it was slated to receive a share of proceeds once the program got up and running.
The track has been involved in a protracted dispute over what it must pay to simulcast live thoroughbred
-racing -- which "played a large role in our death," according to a statement posted on the Web site of Cloverleaf Enterprises, the track owner.
Earlier this year, Rosecroft appealed to the legislature to legalize gambling on Las Vegas-style card games at the track as another means of revenue. A bill passed the state Senate but died in the House.
In a statement, Ehrlich who is trying to win the job back from O'Malley, asserted that the closure of Rosecroft and an accompanying loss of 200 jobs could have been avoided.
"I was proud to introduce a bipartisan plan for slot machines at Maryland race tracks as far back as 2003," Ehrlich said. "Rosecroft would be on much stronger financial footing today had the legislature adopted that plan and had the O'Malley Administration not bungled implementation of its own flawed plan."
An aide said O'Malley's office planned to issue a statement on the closure later this afternoon.
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