Towson, MD — Minutes after what appears to have been the first public discussion on the proposed sale of Rosecroft Raceway, the Maryland Racing Commission at its Aug. 18 meeting read into the record a statement supporting the Standardbred industry and urging continuation of live racing opportunities in the state.
Rumors of a possible sale of the track that opened in 1949 were circulating earlier this year, but no offers for the property had been made. Then, in late June, the Maryland Jockey Club, which owns Rosecroft, met with employees and Standardbred interests in the state concerning an unsolicited offer that came from a major warehouse company. According to comments made during the MRC meeting, the company is continuing the due-diligence process and there have been no other communications or a status report.
Rosecroft races about 60 nights a year from the fall through the spring with a brief winter break and makes up an almost year-round circuit with Ocean Downs Casino, which offers about 45 nights of live racing in late spring through summer.
The statement read into the record on behalf of the MRC was written by Tom Winebrener, a Standardbred representative on the commission.
“The Maryland Racing Commission recognizes the importance the Standardbred industry has in the state of Maryland,” the statement reads in part. “It’s an important part of the Maryland economy.”
Winebrener said that after the MJC confirmed the proposed sale of Rosecroft, there were serious concerns about what it would mean to Standardbred racing and breeding should the deal go through and the track close. If there is a sale, he said it’s critical that “Ocean Downs continues to offer important opportunities for Maryland Standardbred racing and support for all it offers in the great state of Maryland.”
Bobbi Sample, general manager at Ocean Downs, said the facility is always looking to enhance its product. She said that with about three weeks remaining in the 2022 racing season, wagering on the live product through export of the signal is up about $1.2 million compared with the 2021 meet.
Much of the purse money at the state’s two harness tracks comes from a share of revenue from video lottery terminals at the state’s six casinos. The racing industry receives six percent of VLT revenue, 20 percent of which goes to the Standardbred industry and 80 percent to the Thoroughbred industry. Based on Maryland Lottery statistics, the Standardbred industry’s share in 2021 was about $15 million.
Sample said Ocean Downs is looking at financials to see how many more dates it could race based on the VLT split remaining the same in the absence of Rosecroft.
The MRC at the meeting also approved the Rosecroft fall meet request for 27 racing programs from Sept. 20 through Dec. 22 with a first post time of 7:15 p.m. In a change from recent years, Rosecroft will race Tuesday and Thursday evenings rather than Sunday and Wednesday evenings. There will be no racing on Thanksgiving, and the Potomac Pace is slated for Thursday (Nov. 10).
The MRC usually approves racing dates for the following year — in this case 2023 — in October or November.