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Rosecroft's future becomes issue in governor's race

Rosecroft sign.jpgThe future of Rosecroft Raceway remains very much in doubt, but the recently shuttered harness track in Prince George's County certainly is getting some high-level attention during this election year.

Former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) met with some former workers at the Fort Washington track Thursday and pledged to make its re-opening a priority if returned to office in November.

"If we win this election, I'll put my heart and mind, everything I have to get this place up and running again," Ehrlich said toward the end of a visit during which he suggested things would have been different if the legislature had passed a bill during his tenure authorizing slot machines at the site.

"If I don't win this race, I don't know," Ehrlich said. "I'm out of politics, but I don't know what happens to this place."

Ehrlich did not present a specific plan to save the track but said he was open to any ideas embraced by the surrounding community and its representatives in the legislature.

Ehrlich's visit came a day after Maryland Secretary of State John McDonough appeared at Rosecroft for an announcement that the track owners had agreed to extend pensions and benefits through the end of August for 200 former union and administrative employees.

McDonough, who was tasked by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) with saving as many jobs as possible at the track, also indicated that negotiations were underway for a new buyer and to resolve a dispute over simulcasting revenue that led to the track's financial collapse and July closing.

Gerard Evans, a lobbyist representing the Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners' Association, the entity which owns the track, called Ehrlich's appearance "a political carnival" and said Rosecroft's hopes rest with O'Malley.

"There's nothing Governor Ehrlich can do to help Rosecroft unless he wants to congratulate Governor O'Malley for stepping up and trying to do so," Evans said.

Ehrlich Rosecroft.jpgMark Vogel, a potential track purchaser, took a different view Thursday, as he welcomed Ehrlich to Rosecroft.

"It's obvious you care more," Vogel, a Greenbelt developer, told Ehrlich.

Vogel has an option to buy the track, which has been in bankruptcy proceedings, that expires on Sept. 2. Other potential buyers appear to be maneuvering if Vogel's plans fall through. Vogel told the Gazette this week that he hopes to turn Rosecroft into a "major gaming destination."

A mix of financial, legal and political factors led to the track's collapse.

Live horse racing, once a major revenue source for Rosecroft, was suspended two years ago. The track had survived by simulcasting thoroughbred racing but could no longer afford the fee demanded by the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. The signal was cut off last year, and that issue is now in court.

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.

O'Malley did not support the cards legislation, arguing that the state should get its new slots program up and running before debating table games. Ehrlich said Thursday that he "most likely" would have supported the cards bill.

A statewide ballot measure would be required to allow either slots or card games at Rosecroft.

By John Wagner  |  August 13, 2010; 1:40 PM ET
 
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Comments

So, Ehrlic has no plan,of course. He's just trying to score points. How much money has Vogel given to Ehrlic's campaign?

Posted by: jckdoors | August 13, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

"If I don't win this race, I don't know," Ehrlich said. "I'm out of politics...
===========================================
Let's hope not. Ehrlich's mind boggling stupidity never fails to provide laughs.

Posted by: checkered1 | August 13, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Politics have always played a part in the goings on at Rosecroft. It's only when the doors actually close, then the politicians try to help out. The political climate is not favorable for Rosecroft to have any type of expanded gaming, aside from horse racing, and even that is in jeopardy.

Posted by: telecasters_rule | August 13, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse

Best place to find quality quality bankruptcy info online is http://bit.ly/cpmRHo

Posted by: josephdale14 | August 14, 2010 3:20 AM | Report abuse

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