Magna in bid for Rosecroft

Sep 24, 2002 8:57 AM

Magna Entertainment Inc. (MIEC) attempted to lock up its pari-mutuel monopoly in Maryland last week by making a bid for the horsemen-owned Rosecroft Raceway. The company previously bought a majority interest in two thoroughbred tracks ”” Laurel and Pimlico ”” from the De Francis siblings.

Rosecroft, a harness racing facility situated in Fort Washington, Md., was acquired by a horsemen’s group called Cloverleaf Enterprises in 1995 when it appeared that the previous owners were going belly up. The harness horsemen felt the investment would at least give them a track on which to continue racing their horses.

The track’s importance will grow assuming the state legislature approves installing slot machines at the state’s racetracks. The move has been prominently discussed by major politicians who anticipate a new attitude from whomever is elected the next governor. During the past four years, current Gov. Parris Glendening has strongly opposed the expansion of gambling in Maryland.

Track supporters have pointed to a decline in the quality of racing because of the increased purses offered by tracks in nearby Delaware and West Virginia that benefit from the added revenue from slot machines.

Although Magna Entertainment’s leading shareholder, Frank Stronach, has disdained the influence of slot machines on tracks in favor of an expanded race simulcasting wagering system, slot machine supporters strongly see a complete revitalization of Maryland racing with the added revenue slots could generate.

Although no offers for Rosecroft were officially identified, sources close to the track indicated last week that Magna Entertainment had bid $68 million for the facility. Other bidders reportedly were the Greenwood Racing of Pennsylvania with $49 million offered, and Centaur of Indiana, $47 million.