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Penn National/Rosecroft 'extremely disappointed' in losing casino license bid
Monday, December 23, 2013 - by Tom LaMarra, USTA Web Newsroom Correspondent

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Lexington, KY --- An official with Penn National Gaming Inc. said the future of Rosecroft Raceway will “continue to be evaluated” in the wake of MGM Resorts International being awarded a casino license for Prince George’s County, Md.

PNGI, which owns Rosecroft; MGM; and Maryland Casino, a subsidiary of Greenwood Racing, were the three in the running for the lucrative license. The Maryland Video Lottery Selection Commission Dec. 20 selected MGM, which plans to build a resort casino not far from Rosecroft at the National Harbor, to get the license.

PNGI had planned to build a $700 million resort casino on the Rosecroft property. PNGI purchased the harness track at a bankruptcy auction and restored live racing there in 2011.

In a Dec. 21 letter to Rosecroft employees and horsemen, PNGI vice president of racing Chris McErlean outlined the company’s position.

“Needless to say, we are extremely disappointed with the decision of the Maryland Lottery Facility Selection Committee to award the Prince George’s County gaming license to National Harbor,” McErlean said. “It was clear as the process played out that the deck was heavily stacked against us from the start.

“We believe our proposal was superior, not only in terms of helping to save racing in Maryland, but in guaranteeing a long-term commitment to the health-care system of (Prince George’s County) and in providing a unique incentive in retaining quality educators for county schools. In terms of what happens next for Rosecroft, race dates for the 2014 season, similar to our 2013 schedule, have already been approved by the Maryland Racing Commission, and our simulcasting schedule will continue uninterrupted.

“As we have stated throughout this process, Rosecroft’s longer-term viability will continue to be evaluated. In conjunction with the Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners Association, we have worked to build a competitive racing program at Rosecroft with increased purses and increasing benefits to Maryland-based horses and horsemen while providing employment opportunities for county and state residents.

“However, the future placement of a billion-dollar gaming facility just miles from Rosecroft’s front door will present significant challenges in maintaining the positive momentum we have developed in the past few years in restoring stability for employees and horsemen.”

Rosecroft, the horsemen, and breeders have a contract that offers an extension of live racing through 2016.

Though it doesn’t have alternative gaming, Rosecroft, as part of the Standardbred industry, shares in 20 percent of the seven percent of video lottery terminal revenue from Maryland casinos. The money has allowed the track to raise purses the last two years.

From January through November of this year, VLTs in Maryland have generated more than $36 million for purses. Harness racing’s share amounts to about $7.2 million.

Casino Ocean Downs in Maryland also offers a harness meet, but it races fewer days than Rosecroft.

Rosecroft was granted 54 live racing days for 2014 in the winter/spring and then the fall. It’s the same number of dates it raced in 2013.

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