When Penn National Gaming (PNG) reopened Rosecroft Raceway, they were required to commit to two years of racing in order to get a racing license. While they committed to two years of racing, they made it clear that the long term prospects for the track was tied to casino gambling.
Well, a roadblock to the long term survival of Rosecroft has arrived when the Maryland state legislature ran out of time and failed to pass a bill to expand gambling in the state to allow for a casino in Prince George County (PGC), during their annual ninety day general session. This bill would not only have allowed a casino in PGC; it would also have allowed table games at the existing casino sites. Hopes for the proposed gambling legislation passing this year depends on the state holding a special session. The proposed bill would not add the total number of slot machines in the state, but would shift them to a new PGC casino so other casinos would lose some slot machines; something the other casinos will not be thrilled with. In addition, if approved by PGC voters, a new casino would not be allowed to open until 2016 in order to give the Baltimore casino a chance to develop its market before having to deal with canabalizing of their market.
Not that approving a casino bill would ensure Rosecroft's long term survival. If the legislation is approved, a referendum would be required to expand gambling to PGC, and even then Rosecroft may not have received the casino license, as there has been lobbying for the National Harbor to receive the gambling license.
So the question must be asked, if the gaming bill is not approved in a special session, what will happen at Rosecroft? There is no guarantee that failing to pass the bill would automatically mean the end of racing at Rosecroft. It basically depends on how Rosecroft Raceway is performing financially as well as the prospects for a future gaming bill. If PNG feels there is still a chance for gaming to come to the track and any losses at Rosecroft are reasonable, PNG may likely agree to race another season to see what happens. Of course, the moment the legislation is decisively defeated or the slots are awarded to the National Harbor project, it is likely the plug will be pulled on Rosecroft.
Where does this leave Maryland horsemen? In a quandary. To get Ocean Downs to race forty days a year, $1.2 million dollars of funds which were to be put to the horsemen's purse account is being redirected to pay for racing's operating expenses at Ocean Downs. As a result of this re-routing of purse funds, the benefit of slots at Ocean Downs for racing has been muted. The chances of getting Ocean Downs to expand their racing season in order for horsemen to have a viable racing season in Maryland is minimal as it would likely result in a greater re-direction of purse funds (assuming Ocean Downs was even willing). It basically leaves the ball in PNG's hands and their crystal ball.