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Maryland racing: Cooke hoping PNG can move forward

February 03, 2011
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Tom Cooke, president of Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners’ Association, which owns Rosecroft Raceway’s bankrupt parent company Cloverleaf Enterprises Inc., said that after months of focusing on deadlines, Maryland harness horsemen will be in “limbo” if Penn National Gaming’s purchase of the track is challenged in court.
 
On Wednesday, Feb. 2, a bankruptcy judge approved the sale of Rosecroft to Penn National Gaming for $11 million in cash—up from the $10.25 million cash offer that was accepted at a bankruptcy auction last Friday (Jan. 30). The offer was approved over the objection filed by a group led by former Maryland Democratic Party chairman Nathan Landow, which was an underbidder at the auction.
 
Immediately after the ruling by Mannes, Nathan Landow told The Baltimore Sun he was uncertain if his group, Landow Partners, would appeal. They have 14 days to appeal after U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Paul Mannes signs his ruling.
 
In addition to Nathan Landow, Landow Partners is comprised of another local real estate developer plus Chesapeake Racing LLC, which includes two employees of Centaur Racing, which owns Hoosier Park and had attempted to build a harness track in Pennsylvania before it filed bankruptcy and ran into financing problems. Chesapeake Racing LLC’s listed principals include Rollie Luciani, a former chief financial officer at Rosecroft Raceway who is now working for Centaur, and Brian Elmore, director of racing operations at Hoosier Park.
 
“If they appeal, this just slows the whole process down,” said Cooke, who is a business and tax law professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. “We’ll be in limbo. We really hope to race in the fall at Rosecroft.”
 
Penn National Gaming has stated that it plans to reopen Rosecroft for simulcasting and live harness racing this year.
 
Cooke said that while he is not an expert in bankruptcy law, he believes the bankruptcy trustee exercised good business judgment.
 
“I think the evidence will uphold the decision,” said Cooke. “I think the judge, to his credit, took lots of time in looking at this matter and gave it lots of consideration. But how do you evaluate contingencies and possibilities? It turns out that cash is king in bankruptcy, and how much cash was on the table carried the day.”
 
Meanwhile, Maryland horsemen are assured of a meet at Ocean Downs in 2011. The track, located near the shore in Ocean City, Md., did not host harness racing last year because of construction for its slots facility.
 
“We will race 40 dates this summer (June 18-Aug. 28) and we’re estimating total purses of $2.4 million to $2.6 million,” said Cooke, who as a horse owner has campaigned such notables as Nuclear Breeze p,5, 1:48.2f and 52-race winner Glowing Tribute.
 
Cooke said the Ocean Downs slots facility is “beautiful, in the style of Mr. Rickman’s (track owner Bill Rickman) OTB parlor, but small.” In addition, the legislation which allows slots at Ocean Downs protects Ocean City businesses by limiting the food service options that can be offered at Ocean Downs’ slots facility, and prohibiting free drinks and bands for entertainment.
 
“When it comes to Maryland’s gaming industry, we’re just stepping up to the plate, while in Delaware, they’re already on third base,” observed Cooke.—By Kathy Parker
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