- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 6, 2004

Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos’ bid to buy Rosecroft Raceway likely will be approved tomorrow in a move that would increase momentum for slot machines in Maryland.

The Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners Association meets at the Oxon Hill harness track to vote on the deal, which is expected to be passed despite the reservations of some horsemen.

The sale then would be subject to the approval of the Maryland Racing Commission, but Angelos Group lobbyist Gerald Evans expects to get that approval and have the deal completed by Aug. 31.

Angelos reportedly will pay $13 million and raise overnight purses to $50,000 from $42,000.

Angelos is the legal advisor to the syndicate headed by his wife, Georgia, and sons Louis and John. The syndicate also includes 25 percent interest held by local businessmen who are minorities. Major League Baseball bars team owners from direct involvement in gaming companies.

Evans said the Angelos Group plans a “full destination resort with a hotel and concert venue and restaurants,” but he conceded slots play a prominent part in the track’s future.

Maryland tracks have sought passage of legislation that would allow slot machines. Slot measures have failed the past two years.

However, Gov. Robert Ehrlich remains hopeful a special session for slot passage will take place if a compromise can be reached with House leader Michael Busch. Racing leaders say Angelos’ heavy political clout could be the final push needed for approval for slots.

Eighteen states now offer slot machines, including those at tracks in Delaware and West Virginia that have crippled Maryland’s racing industry.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell will sign a bill in the next few days that allows 61,000 slots in his state and provide $1 billion annually in property tax relief.

Evans, who represents both the thoroughbred and harness industries before the state legislature, said a combined push is needed to get slots. Rosecroft has been in limbo for two years while two efforts to buy the track failed. Now that that uncertainty is coming to an end, both racing interests would be able to unite to push for slots.

“We need to get together in horse racing as an umbrella organization and get this slot thing moving instead of these [internal] battles,” Evans said. “The blown sales and political gaffes have really taken it into a position where [Rosecroft has] not been a favorite site even though demographically it is the best site in the state for slots.

“It has been a difficult process, but the Angelos folks have a lot of faith in it. Peter’s family has been in horse racing for 40 years, so he understands the business.”

Angelos owns Marathon Farm in Monkton, Md., which has regularly raced thoroughbreds at local tracks. Green Sun is considered to be one of the nation’s top turf runners after winning a prominent California stakes on June 27. Willa on the Move was among Maryland’s top fillies last year.

Rosecroft has slumped in recent years under uncertain ownership.

With little marketing, weeknight crowds have dipped below 1,000, and the on-track handle on its own races is less than 10 percent of what it was a decade ago.

However, the prospects of Angelos’ purchase and gaining slots leaves Rosecroft officials upbeat.

“It is an exciting time to look forward with partners like the Angelos Group coming in,” said Mary Manney, director of operations. “The horsemen have been through a lot — a lot of promises, lot of broken promises.”

Al Mindel, one of the leading horse owners at Rosecroft, said Angelos’ marketing savvy could greatly increase crowds.

“Angelos knows how to merchandise the Orioles,” Mindel said. “If someone starts to do promotional work here, it will build back up again. It may not go back to the golden days, but it can come back.”

Evans was uncertain about the nature of the Angelos Group’s involvement in daily operations. However, he expected current management to remain.

“They’ve done a good job under very difficult situations,” Evans said. “The place is clean and safe.”

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